“Hendren said he didn’t care what the lawyers said.”
And he felt better for it, we imagine. Haven’t we all wanted to shout, at one time or another, “I don’t care what the lawyers say!” and “ Get those lawyers away from here!” and “**** you, lawyers!”
But on reflection, we realize, as state Sen. Kim Hendren will have to, that when we deal with the law, we must deal with lawyers. They’re government-certified specialists in the field, trained with taxpayer dollars to thrust their opinions on us. Whether we want those opinions or not, we can’t afford to ignore them.
Senator Hendren has introduced a bill to stop the $70 million of annual desegregation payments that the state makes to the three school districts in Pulaski County. It’s a reasonable sentiment, on its face. The money could be well used for other school needs, in other counties. The problem, a large one, is that the payments were ordered by a federal judge. Until a federal judge withdraws the order, Arkansas is bound to comply. (An effort to exempt Arkansas from the rulings of federal judges failed wretchedly some time back.)
The lawyers who so annoy the senator have pointed out the impracticality of his plan, the pursuit of which could cost the state far more than $70 million. One lawyer speculated that if Hendren’s bill were approved, federal Judge William R. Wilson Jr. would respond with contempt citations all around. Our own impression of Judge Wilson is that he wouldn’t flinch from throwing state senators behind bars, and might even enjoy it. Better heed the lawyers, Senator Hendren.
Happily, it appears as we write that a stronger law against animal cruelty will be approved at this session of the legislature. Animal-cruelty bills have been defeated previously, largely because of the opposition of agricultural interests. This time, cruel and uncruel negotiated a compromise, with the forceful assistance of Attorney General Dustin McDaniel.
As is the case with all such compromises, the new law will be imperfect but improved. The challenge facing animal lovers now is to make sure that the law is enforced, and that could be an even greater challenge than winning legislative approval. Sheriffs and prosecuting attorneys are elected, and they will not be eager to pursue animal abusers who are rich and powerful. Opponents of the legislation may have been counting on this when they agreed to negotiate. The anti-cruelty community must be vigilant — quick to report violations of the law, adamant in insisting that elected officials take appropriate action, resolved to bark and/or bite at those who don’t.