May 16, 2006

Court Report May 16 1:30pm

Court report courtesy of Steve Barker.

Here is my summary of the morning of May 16.

Legalities require me to tell you that I'm not a lawyer and this document contains only my interpretations of what was said in court and my opinions. Nothing in this document should ever be construed as advice.

It was the government's turn to make their case.

Sonny Allison, a director in the CKC and a fighter against BSL, described the entire morning as "a semantic dance around the elusive definition of a mixed breed of dog whose breed cannot be scientifically proved". I would agree.

The focus is on two things:

1. Can you identify a pit bull? This applies to both the vagueness and overbreadth arguments.
2. Do pit bulls need to be treated specially? This applies to both the overbreadth and the reasonableness arguments.

The entire morning was spent on the vagueness argument.

The crown went through a number of case precedents where upper courts have allowed vague laws. His basic argument is that most laws are general in nature, with the judges dealing with specifics in court cases and that this is no different.

There are four points to be made re vagueness:

1. The law must be intelligible. However, according to the case law that he quoted, it does not have to be intelligible (i.e., interpretable) by the average member of the public so much as it has to be interpretable by a judge. He made arguments that it is intelligible, based on the statement that the word "pit bull" is so commonly used that everyone knows what it means. He also argued that it is possible to identify the predominant physical characteristics of a particular breed and whether an individual dog has some or all of those characteristics.

2. There must be an area of risk defined. What risk is the law trying to prevent? This will also be brought up this afternoon when they try to prove that pit bulls are dangerous enough to be specially regulated.

3. The law is entitled to speak generally and allow the judges to balance specific arguments pro/con during a court case.

4. The threshold for vagueness is very high. Courts are reluctant to find laws unconstitutional due to vagueness without first trying to interpret the law exhaustively in other ways.

The next part was just the word "pit bull". He brought up numerous court cases where the word was used and accepted, as well as testimony from both sides that used the word. He argued that it is an identifiable dog, that "pit bull" refers to APBT's, AST's, and SBT's and dogs that are substantially similar. He spent a lot of time on this.

He then discussed the breed standards for the three purebred breeds, basically to prove that it is possible to identify the unique characteristics of a breed by sight alone.

He also requested that the "pick the pit bull" pictures NOT be allowed into evidence. Ruby had used these pictures to show that police officers were not able to accurately identify pit bulls. His argument is that we were unable to prove, through registration papers and/or other methods, that the 25 dogs shown were actually the breeds listed. In theory, because we didn't prove that (in his view), they could all be pit bulls or they could all be Jack Russell Terriers. There is no proof that the dog in the picture is the breed we say it is.

Accordingly, if the pictures are accepted based on Zaharchuk's evidence that they each accurately represent their breed, then it is possible to identify dog breeds by sight.

This afternoon will be more focused on the unique danger to society that pit bulls represent. It will be more difficult to keep our mouths shut during this, but Breese has told us to not even roll our eyes or we might get kicked out.

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