Friday, July 27, 2007

People v. Fritz (Cal. Ct. App. - July 26, 2007)

It's rare that you read an opinion that's intellectually rigorous, well written, sage, and full of common sense. Sometimes you get one of the four. But even that's fairly rare.

But when I read this opinion by Justice Bedsworth, I was -- quite literally -- flabbergasted by how good it was. By how wonderfully the opinion flowed. By how smart the guy seemed to be. And by how he brought to the resolution of the appeal a kind of obvious common sense that's far too uncommon in the judiciary.

There's no way I could have written an opinion that was half as good as this one. It's one of those very rare pieces that really had an effect on me; that instilled a deep, sincere reaction of: "Wow. That guy's really, really good."

You'll have to read the whole opinion to see what I mean. And I admit that, perhaps, my reaction might be a tiny bit idiosyncratic, and may stem from the fact that I lack the intuitive insight into the human condition that I think that Justice Bedsworth possesses in spades.

Still, I think it's a great opinion. And full of arguments like these, which you won't find many places:

"We think the latter statement reflects the better rule. Obviously any person arrested for a crime, whether guilty or innocent, would harbor a fervent desire to look good to the police and might lie about any number of wholly irrelevant things.[FN] And a rule which equates any lie told in the context of such an attempt with being guilty of the crime, necessarily assumes that only criminals would lie to the police – the very same 'seriously prejudicial' assumption decried by Justice Traynor. . . . [A] lie about one’s past record may be offered by either a guilty or an innocent suspect. It indicates not that the truth about the instant case is damaging – it says absolutely nothing about the instant case – but only that the suspect fears the police will rush to judgment. That is indicative not of guilt, but of timorousness and distrust – both of which are regrettable, but not criminally punishable."

That's great stuff. Plus, I love the footnote (which I marked with FN above), and to prove the point that even a guilty person might well lie to the police, here's the text of that footnote, in its entirety: "'I love you guys; I always buy tickets to the Policeman’s Ball.' 'My brother’s a cop.' 'I don’t mind being detained because I support everything our police do; they don’t pay you enough.'"

Hilarious. Because, I'm sure, it's utterly and totally true. And in the midst of a wonderful and outstanding opinion.