We took a lot of grief when we wrote Roy Moore was being treated unfairly by being hit with 30 yr + allegations of bad behavior. and the American Nazi Party had acted correctly in organizing their parade in Chancellorsville, Va. We pointed out the City Authorities were at fault. Sure enough a comprehensive 220 page report authorized by the City by former US Attorney Timothy Heaphy detailed the failures by the City and law enforcement leading to the unfortunate outcome. We didn’t take these positions out of any love for Roy Moore or the American Nazis, just the opposite. We abhor both. That’s the point. In order for our system to work we have to be fair to everyone. This is especially true of ideas and people we dislike. With Moore, we expressed the fear using accusations long passed any statute of limitations to attack him would be patently unfair. Worse if allowed, could be set a precedent whereby any alleged long passed act could be used to smear and maybe destroy innocent people. Unfortunately, this is where we now are.
The idea of a Statute of Limitations has been in embedded the law of civilized societies for thousands of years. Demosthenes wrote the Statutes of Limitations for Classical Athens. Why have these laws been included in virtually every nation’s legal codes? To protect defendants. Three reasons are generally behind their enactment 1. A plaintiff with a valid cause of action should pursue it with reasonable diligence. 2. By the time a stale claim is litigated, a defendant might have lost evidence necessary to disprove the claim. 3. Litigation of a long-dormant claim may result in more cruelty than justice. Laws reflect the ethics and principles of the a society. If it is seen as unfair under the law to make a long dormant accusation, why would it be ethical or fair to do it under any other circumstances? The answer is for thousands of years has been making such old accusations should not be allowed. If it is improper to so in court it is no less improper to do it anywhere. After all, Demosthenes wrote Athens’ Statutes of Limitations to control the “Sycophants” (professional accusers).
We must remember laws are agreed upon principles codified or incorporated into the common law. Just because we’re outside courtroom we don’t discard our principles of justice and fairness and we don’t apply them to some but not others.
This brings us to a situation we warned would happen, the travesty of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. An outstanding human being by any reasonable standard, Bret Kavanaugh was nominated to fill an open Supreme Court seat for which he is superbly qualified. Because it would possibly upset the balance on the court the appointment was bound to be contentious, but Kavanaugh was cruising to confirmation. At the eleventh hour a woman makes a claim 36 years ago as a seventeen year old he sexually assaulted her at a party. How does this by all accounts excellent human being defend himself?