If DaveScot didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him. Who could give up the constant amusement of watching him take brave leaps in the dark and land with a resounding thud? Here’s his latest, where he entirely misreads a post by Sandefur at the Panda’s Thumb and still doesn’t get the distinction between what juries can and cannot judge. He’s still trying to find some credibility for his claim that if the damages had been over $20 in the Dover case, then a jury would have heard the case and likely would not have ruled the way the judge did. He claims that Sandefur agrees with him and disagrees with me; he is wrong. Here’s the portion he quotes from Sandefur:
But there’s a rule that says that you can’t have a jury when you’re asking for an injunction, only when you’re asking for damages. This goes back to the old common law days. At the time the Constitution was written, courts were divided into the law courts and the equity courts. If you wanted money damages, you would go to a law court. If you wanted an injunction, you would go to an equity court. You could only have juries in law courts, not equity courts. Nowadays the two kinds of courts have been combined. But you’re still only entitled to a jury trial in cases seeking “law”-type remedies–that is, money damages–not in cases seeking “equity”-type remedies, such as an injunction.
He emphasizes the part in bold. Now here’s what he’s missing completely: our courts perform both functions, as courts of law and courts of equity. So what would actually happen if someone sued for both injunctive/declaratory relief and money damages that went over $20? There would be a mixed trial, heard by both a judge and a jury, each of which would determine different parts of the case. The jury would be empowered only to decide the question of damages, while the judge would rule on the request for injunctive or declaratory relief. Why? Juries are finders of fact. They cannot issue injunctions or declarations of relief. Here’s a legal reference for you, Dave:
Only judges can grant injunctions. Juries cannot decide injunctions because juries do not issue orders. Only judges issue orders. You can ask both for an injunction and for money damages in a complaint. Then, the judge will decide your injunction while the jury will decide your money damages (if you wish to have a jury trial on that part of your case).
And of course, all of this relies on the equally ridiculous notion that if you call reimbursement of legal fees punitive damages, they magically become punitive damages. Reimbursement of legal fees is allowed in all civil rights cases where the government is challenged, and that is for a reason entirely different from why we provide punitive damages. Congress was clear on the reasons why it wanted such reimbursement and there were two primary reasons. First, because if the government is acting unconstitutionally and the court agrees, a citizen should not be forced to spend their own money in order to stop the government from doing so. Second, because it allows citizens to attract competent counsel by which to pursue such cases against the government. Those are all good things, of course, and Dave would no doubt support them in any other case. But if he doesn’t like the outcome of those cases, like all juveniles, he throws a fit and stomps his feet and wants to change the rules.
But Dave isn’t done being a dolt yet. He still has this question to ask:
If you don’t believe this was part of the ACLU strategy ask yourself what other reason there might have been for NOT asking for punitive damages if not to avoid a jury trial?
Gee Dave, maybe because they weren’t interested in making money over the issue? Maybe what they were after is what they got, injunctive relief from an unconstitutional policy. The fact is, the only reason they asked for the nominal damages of $1 per plaintiff was to avoid having the case mooted in case of a school board change (which, of course, did happen) and force the court to rule in the case. The plaintiffs weren’t trying to get rich off the case. They weren’t seeking to punish the school district. They wanted an injunction to prevent them from violating the Constitution and that’s what they got.
Stop for a moment, Dave, and think about this: why don’t the ACLJ or the ADF ask for punitive damages in cases like Lamb’s Chapel? Because they want to avoid a jury trial? Of course not. Juries would be more sympathetic to their case than judges would. It’s because when someone files a case against the government on a constitutional issue, they don’t do it to make money. They do it out of principle, even if you don’t agree with that principle. They’re suing to have their rights restored, not to have their bank account increased. And it’s also because they know that no matter what they ask for in damages, the constitutional issue can only be decided by a judge, not a jury.