Teens in Court

     Aren’t initials real whether they stand for anything real or not?
     I know I shouldn’t obsess about questions like this, but I couldn’t help it when I read this in a footnote to a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruling called A.M. v. Holmes: “We use fictitious initials rather than a name to preserve the anonymity of F.M., who is a minor.”
     Fictitious initials?
     Those initials look real to me.
     But I quibble (which is part of my job).
     What I really wanted to point out is that this ruling is rather interesting for a couple of reasons.
     First off, we now have a precedent in the 10th Circuit for immunity for police who arrest 13-year-olds who pretend to burp in class and then cart them off to jail for — I repeat — pretend burping in class.
     Some of us might not think faux burping is a criminal offense, and it may well not be, but the court seemed to think a reasonable police officer might not realize this.
     A perp is a perp.
     Admittedly, this was not an easy ruling — the three-judge panel split 2-1.
     And it wasn’t treated lightly either — the majority produced a 94-page ruling.
     The dissenter offered four pages.
     You have to say an awful lot to justify carting a 13-year-old off to juvenile detention for “fake burping” and disrupting a class. (OK, it wasn’t all about the burping incident, but a whole lot of it was.)
     So I’m astonished to report that nowhere in all those pages does the court explain what distinguishes “fake burping” from real burping. If it sounds like a burp but does not, as the dictionary insists a burp must, originate from the release of gas from the mouth, is it no less real?
     And if it’s not coming from the kid’s mouth, where is it coming from? How were these burp-like sounds produced?
     Is the fake burping the reason for the fictitious initials?
     Would real burping have been less offensive?
     So many pages and so few answers.
     On to the Supreme Court!
     Speaking of teenagers, the Nevada Supreme Court last week in a contentious 4-3 ruling upheld the concept of “teenage discretion.”
     Apparently teenagers are yet another topic dividing the nation.
     In this case it was a 14-year-old who wanted to spend more time with her mom. Clearly, a state’s highest court needed to step in.
     To summarize this dispute: a couple divorced and agreed that once their kids reached the age of 14, they could be allowed “teenage discretion” to decide how much time to spend with each parent.
     So, naturally, when the first kid tried to use her discretion, the parent who lost out went to court.
     I think there’s a life lesson here for the kid, but I’m not sure what it is. It’s probably “Don’t trust Dad.”
     The court majority ruled that, since the parents agreed to it, the discretion thing was fine. The dissenters seemed to think kids shouldn’t be trusted with anything.
     They may be both right.
     I won’t take sides here, but I have to point out that the teenager missed out on a good thing here.
     After all, if you’ve got discretion, you’ve got leverage. If Dad wants you so much, he can kick in for, say, a new scooter or some sweet gaming rig.
     And Mom, if she wants you around, could spring for bail if you get arrested for burping.
     There’s no reason divorce has to be difficult for children.

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