Beg the Question

     And now for another episode of Legal Battles that Beg Questions.
     Play along. It’s kind of like Jeopardy.
     This passage is from a federal judge’s ruling in Las Vegas in a case called Riback v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department: “Steve Riback is an officer of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and an Orthodox Jew. His faith requires that he wear a beard and cover his head; his profession requires that he shave and not wear a hat indoors.”
     Anybody out there hit the buzzer?
     Correct responses include: “Shouldn’t this guy be considering a new career?” and “Why exactly does policing require shaving?”
     If you’re going to go to the trouble of litigating something silly, there should be lots of question like these.
     I won’t go into all the arguments, but I do want to point out my favorite from the police department’s lawyers: “(B)eards provide additional means for a suspect to gain an advantage when engaged in combat with an officer.”
     Picture the suspect twirling the officer in the air while holding his beard.
     Go on. Picture it. Who knew law enforcement could be so cartoon-like?
     This ruling is chock full of fascinating concepts and I won’t spoil them all for you. But I do have to note two of them.
     First off, consider this passage: “(I)t (the police department) contends that police work in Las Vegas, Nevada is substantially more difficult than in Newark, New Jersey.”
     This was supposed to somehow rebut a ruling in New Jersey against beard discrimination.
     I can’t explain that concept but it did prove to be educational – I went to the Internet and discovered that Newark’s murder rate is 3.8 times the national average while the Las Vegas murder rate is a pathetic 1.55 times the national average. Newark wins on violent crime too.
     So maybe police work is harder in Vegas because criminals are harder to find.
     And, finally, the most fascinating and mysterious concept in the ruling: the “medical beard.”
     Apparently the police department does allow beards for medical reasons.
     Are you ready to Beg the Question?
     I hear buzzers out there.
     Yes, the correct response is “What medical reasons?”
     Horrible acne? Extreme ugliness?
     Perhaps some officers lose all their strength if their hair is cut off?
     Try going to the Internet to explain that one.
     GOOD DEAL? In case you missed it, the federal government filed a forfeiture complaint in federal court against “$4,000,000 in United State Funds” the other day as a result of a plea agreement with William S. Lerach, the lawyer who filed many, many stockholder class actions on behalf of clients who were being paid to sue.
     Sound like justice?
     Well, maybe. But, then again, maybe not.
     If you read through the government’s complaint you’ll discover this: “These class actions generated approximately $215,459,633.77 in attorneys’ fees for Milberg Weiss, and based on Lerach’s ownership percentage in Milberg Weiss at pertinent times, his share of the attorneys’ fee totals approximately $39,762,739.47.”
     I guess the feds didn’t want to leave the man broke.
     Now here’s something for you to ponder if you’re feeling philosophical: all those attorney fees over a 20-year-period got approved by judges.
     Make of it what you will.

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