Sunday, July 30, 2006

Tim Harris Wins Despite Sophistry by Opponents

Incumbent Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris handily won re-election last week despite a well-organized and frequently troubling campaign by challenger Brett Swab. Harris, an Oral Roberts University College of Law graduate, is well known for his Christian faith and conservative values. The race was decided in the Republican primary since no Democrat chose to run. This fact makes the details of the campaign even more troubling.

In the past, Democratic challengers described Harris as a wild-eyed religious zealot who could not be trusted to administer his office according to established legal precedent. The gist of the current campaign against Harris by a challenger from within his own party was that he was not tough enough on crime and followed precedent too carefully. One of the more scurrilous charges in this vein appeared on a local blog, blaming Harris for refusing to charge a pair of accused Sand Springs, Oklahoma child molesters found in possession of alleged child pornography in the form of nudist/naturist magazines portraying children.

The facts were that similar material had been reviewed by the Federal courts in the past and found to be legal. The decisions had been appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The decisions were final and there was nothing Harris could do about it. The material was legal, though disgusting to many, and there were no legal grounds to file charges for possessing it. Harris did the only thing possible under the circumstances and took a lot of heat for it during the political campaign of his life.

Harris’ situation during the last campaign is a classic example of a troubling conflict that now faces many officers of the court. Local and state judges and District Attorneys are subject to a referendum measuring their perceived performance in relation to community values every election cycle. But, every day on the job, they are subject to another referendum by the appellate courts measuring their literal adherence to existing legal precedent.

The problem is that there is a huge gap between the moral and ethical values of the appellate courts and the values of the average community. The United States Supreme Court recently codified this gap in Lawrence v. Texas, declaring that traditional morality and community values as expressed through the political process were insufficient grounds to uphold a state statute proscribing certain sexual behavior. Adopting the language of Justice Stevens’ dissent in Bowers v. Hardwick, the Supreme Court declared that “the fact that the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice.” In his stinging dissent, Justice Antonine Scalia declared that Lawrence, “effectively decrees the end of all morals legislation.”

Average citizens pay little attention to Appellate and Supreme Court jurisprudence. They don’t understand that the political process is in effect governed by these courts and that no amount of political action on their part at the local and state level is going to change their decisions. The frustration the average citizen feels with the legal system can be easily re-directed for political gain by unscrupulous politicians. In the situation described, no District Attorney in the United States could have done anything different but had the accusations gotten traction in the electorate, a good man, probably one of the best Christian public servants in the United States, could have lost his job over a cynically crafted political sophistry.



Blogger Paul Tay said...

Tim certainly did a wonderful job keeping a certain cretin from rolling Captain Pecker, a six-foot inflatable replica of the male genitalia, on a bicycle through Tulsa streets at least until July 2007.

It's interesting to note Oregon has no outraging public decency law because their courts have ruled the current laws on the books can NOT avoid the void for vagueness defense.

Tulsa County does not seem inclined to prosecute outraging public decency rules. Oklahoma County will throw the book at the perp and use the process to punish.

All in all, Tim picked his fights well.

A couple of Swab wise guys tried to pick a fight with Santa as he was rolling TIM 4 DA sign at 51st/Harvard. Santa quickly explained he's actually campaigning for Swab. Rolling signs on bicycles in this crummy town pisses motorists off. Maybe they take out their anger of getting stuck in traffic behind Santa on Tim on primary day.

The Swab boys were laughing their asses off as they gave Santa a 5 dollar bill.

Man, imagine the conversation at Swab HQ later:

Hey, Dad, we just gave 5 dollaaas to Santa pissing people off with the TIM 4 DA sign in traffic with a bicycle.

Son, yer a GENIUS! Certify-able genius, I tell ya! Let's git dat MIT college application filled out ALREADY!

Merry Christmas, Tim!

P.S. BTW, Santa has a couple of appeals winding their way through the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. 1) Can the City ban bicycles from the Broken Arrow Expressway using the minimum speed limit ordinance? Trotwood v. Selz says NO. 2) Under TRO 37 1003, what is "as far to the right as practicable" for bicycles? And, if bicycles are considered vehicles, with all rights and RESPONSIBILITIES of operators of vehicles, why should they be limited as such? Columbus v. Truax says if no one is being hurt or will likely to be hurt, why bother enforcing a stupid law. Look for it on

5:34 PM  

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