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Opinion

How many times have you heard that “ignorance of the law is no excuse?” Well, add one more time to that total, plus its Latin translation of Ignorantia juris non excusat. It's been repeated so often, surely it must be true – or is it?

My friend Stacy was ticketed by a North Carolina Wildlife Officer at Fontana Lake during the Memorial Day weekend (a holiday celebrating “freedom”) because his canoe did not contain personal flotation devices for the two aboard. Stacy was unaware of the recent change in the law that had previously exempted unmechanized boats such as the original personal flotation device – the canoe. Traveling in only waist deep water, it didn’t cross his mind he was in danger. However, he was certainly in danger of being ticketed by an over zealous officer to the tune of $215. Stacy tried to reason that if he had known he would have complied with the new law so why not a warning instead? The ignorance of the law mantra was repeated by the officer as if it trumped any kind of logic or sense of fairness.

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“What lies at the nexus of Obama’s targeted drone killings, his self-serving leaks, and his aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers is a president who believes himself above the law, and seems convinced that he alone has a preternatural ability to determine right from wrong.”—Peter Van Buren, a 24-year veteran Foreign Service Officer at the State Department

Since the early days of our republic, we have operated under the principle that no one is above the law. As Thomas Paine observed in Common Sense, “in America, the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.” Several years later, John Adams, seeking to reinforce this important principle, declared in the Massachusetts Constitution that they were seeking to establish “a government of laws and not of men.”

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Once again, the United States Supreme Court has proven Clarence Darrow, a civil liberties attorney and long-time advocate for the Constitution, correct in his assertion that “there is no such thing as justice—in or out of court.” In meting out this particular miscarriage of justice, the Supreme Court recently refused to hear the case of a pregnant woman who was repeatedly tasered by Seattle police during a routine traffic stop simply because she refused to sign a speeding ticket.

Malaika Brooks, 33 years old and seven months pregnant, was driving her 11-year-old son to school on a November morning in 2004, when she was pulled over for driving 32 mph in a 20 mph school zone. Instructing her son to walk the rest of the way to school, Malaika handed over her driver’s license to Officer Juan Ornelas for processing. However, when instructed to sign the speeding ticket—which the state inexplicably requires, Malaika declared that she wished to contest the charge, insisting that she had not done anything wrong and fearing that signing the ticket would signify an admission of guilt.

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The question of presidential birth legitimacy brought up by “birthers” needs to be addressed. Was our 21st President, Chester A. Arthur born in Vermont or Canada as some have claimed? His mother was an American but his father was from Ireland, so would a Canadian birth invalidate Arthur's Presidency? (Arthur was James Garfield's VP and he became president after the Garfield assassination.) Though there was no definitive evidence of Arthur being foreign born, the issue was a significant diversionary talking point of the 1880 election.

Fast forward 132 years, replacing Canada with Kenya, Arthur with Obama, and you have all the fixings for another full course meal of baloney. I enjoy postulating about outlandish things as much as the next conspiracy nut. I also understand that the burden of proof lies with those making a claim. Repeating something doesn't make it so. There may be a fire where there is smoke, or maybe just a smokescreen.

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