Philosophy, Law and Politics

A formal submission of Public Comments regarding a dispute between the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the Office of Management and Budget. Comments to the OMB on the proposed collection of government information by the FHFA are due today by 11:59 p.m.

Lori Gayle Nuckolls, Esq.

1237 Paddock Hills Avenue

Cincinnati, Ohio 45229-1219

 

Lori.Nuckolls@post.harvard.edu

lnuckoll@wellesley.edu

lorigaylenuckolls@cinci.rr.com

513-305-7902

August 30, 2018

Office of Information and Regulatory

Affairs of the Office of Management and Budget

Attention: Desk Officer for the Federal

Housing Finance Agency

Washington, D.C. 20503

Submitted via email to: OIRA_submission@omb.eop.gov

Re: Proposed Collection; Comment Request: Minimum Requirements for Appraisal Management Companies, (No. 2018-N-08)

Dear Desk Officer,

I write in formal response to the Notice in request for Public Comments published by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (the “FHFA”) regarding the Proposed Collection by the FHFA entitled the “Minimum Requirements for Appraisal Management Companies, (No. 2590-0013),” pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. (83 Fed. Reg. 36931-36935 (July 31, 2018)) (the “Notice”). This Proposed Collection concerns the possible amendment of State and Federal law governing real estate appraisers and appraisals offered in support of federally related consumer real estate transactions. And, specifically, this request for comments concerns the bureaucratic functioning of the FHFA with respect to the reporting and recordkeeping duties to be imposed upon the FHFA by federal law. The FHFA has asked the public to comment on four subjects, and  I quote: “(1) [w]hether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of FHFA functions, including whether the information has practical utility; (2) the accuracy of  FHFA’s estimates of the burdens of the collection of information; (3) ways to enhance the quality, utility and clarity of the information collected; and (4) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents .,,,” (83 Fed. Reg. 36931-36935 (July 31, 2018)). I offer comments fully in support of the proposed minimum collection standard as presently drafted as to the FHFA.

 

As one nation, the United States possesses an historical diversity in its legally recognized forms of real property, by both type and use. American citizens and residents will, in the future, continue to create many increasingly more complex and sophisticated transactional agreements in written contract for the transfer of real property to both consumers and business entities.

 

The right of owning real property, the right to own a residence of one’s own, is a foundation of liberty and of self-governance. This perception of the inherent value of real property as being attendant to freedom is truly noted in an era of the gainful employment of both professional and vocational unmarried women and men, as well as of unmarried yet same-sex partners. Thus, it is to be presumed that more and not fewer appraisers within the States and Territories will seek to participate in federally regulated transactions. Without a guiding system of didactic regulatory compliance, such as been proposed, Americans and residents in less sophisticated and more provincial regions will not benefit to the extent possible in the course of ordinary interstate commerce.

 

It is the legal acknowledgement of the right to a permanent situs of residence, usually by recognition of title, from which one may exercise one’s right of electoral franchise. Only with an interest in real property may one participate in government and determine one’s own life, future actions and place in America. For, in the words put forth by Sir William Blackstone:

“the thought of the most usual and universal method of acquiring a title to real estates is that of alienation, conveyance, or purchase in its limited sense: under which may be comprised any method wherein estates are voluntarily resigned by one man, and accepted by another; whether that be effected by sale, gift, marriage settlement, devise, or other transmission of property by the mutual consent of the parties.”

(Commentaries on the Laws of England, Bk II, Chap. 19, 287).  In some manner, since the day of Blackstone (1723-1780) such numerous and varied means of tendering real estate for value have required an assessment and an agreement upon the value of the real property.

 

Then and now, real property consumer transactions rely upon the skill and expertise of nonparties to the transaction in order to support the agreed upon opinion as to the value of the real property being transferred. The expertise of these third parties, such as appraisers of real estate, possess influence as governance of the attribution of value. We are still remedying the Anglo-Saxon form of property once existing in the American Colonial era when indentured labor was personal property. Presently, relative to the purchase of land as a stick in our bundle of property rights, perhaps a fair and reasoned regulation of the services of an appraiser of real property might be in order.

 

Pursuant to the Notice, under currently existing, jointly promulgated rules, the FHFA and three additional federal agencies, namely: the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the “Board”); the Federal Deposit Insurance Company (the “FDIC”) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (the “OCC”) govern Appraisal Managing Companies (an “AMC” or the “AMCs”) in fifty-five state and territories. (83 Fed. Reg. 36931-36935 (July 31, 2018)).  The AMCs are comprised of a minimum number of licensed and certified real estate appraisers who grant appraisals in support of federally related consumer real estate transactions. Id.

 

At the discretion of the AMC, an AMC may either chose to register as an appraisal management services business with a State created agency that certifies, licenses and regulates real estate appraisers. Or, it may, instead, conduct such a business as a federally regulated AMC, under the auspices of one of the previously enumerated federal financial agencies, namely the:  Board, FDIC, FHFA, or OCC.

 

Each AMC reports certain information and engages in record keeping and governance of the meritocratic work product standards and ethical conduct of its member appraisers. The AMCs would be named to a national registry of managing companies.  Each State would, for itself and on behalf of the AMCs overseen by one of the three federal agencies, submit collected information from the AMCs to an Appraisal Subcommittee (the “ASC”) of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (the “FFIEC”) for creation of a national registry. (83 Fed. Reg. 36931, 36932 (July 31, 2018)).  The AMCs are responsible at a fundamental level below, both the state and federal governments, for ensuring the due and credible qualifications and ethical work product of their licensed and certified appraisers, as determined by law. This is a national standard applicable to all.

 

It is proposed in the Notice, that the purpose and function of the FHFA do not require that the FHFA participate in the collection of information as would be envisioned by the regulations. Yet, it has been suggested that, though FHFA participation would be required, the four agencies have agreed that the duties imposed as to recordkeeping and reporting as to AMCs that become owned or controlled by a federal agency will only be divided among the three federal agencies governing depositary financial institutions, for the entities governed by the FHFA may not become an owner of an AMC as may those entities regulated by the other federal agencies under current law, (83 Fed. Reg. 36931-36933 (July 31, 2018)).

 

The Notice states that the FHFA would, however, retain, with the other three agencies, its one-fourth share of the obligatory federal oversight burden of review of the reports tendered to the ASC by States which register AMCs. The FHFA would also retain one-fourth of the burden of reviewing the State registration systems in development and State compliance with substantive issues of with legal and ethical standards.

 

The foregoing bureaucratic duties and obligations of the FHFA are not excessive, and are more than within its obligatory purpose and duty. Federal regulation establishing a minimum standard for a uniform system of compliance in consumer real estate transactions is one of  essential notions of imposing a governing didactic of honesty and fairness within the marketplace. Such notions are essentially, in America, premised upon the time honored historical principles of the republican form of government since the historical times of Ancient Rome.

 

This proposed collection is a uniform, national system of review founded upon a uniform required reporting and recordkeeping applicable even to the smallest of America’s real estate markets involved in federally related transactions. Uniformity in governance from above, a principle of federalism, provides efficiency and economy to the fifty states and five jurisdictions to which this law governing federally real estate lending and appraisals applies.

 

This regulatory system, even as to the FHFA, provides a comprehensive method that yields quality and increasing merit in the development of appraisal methodology and governance. According to the Notice, as of July 26, 2017, only five of the governed 55 states and jurisdictions “do not possess a system for registering Appraisal Management Companies” (83 Fed. Reg. 36931-36933 (July 31, 2018)) (emphasis added). And, more importantly, according further to the Notice, there are only 200 AMCs currently registered. (83 Fed. Reg. 36931-36933 (July 31, 2018)). The question then is whether participation in the collection currently, or will in the future, pose a burden upon the FHFA to a greater extent than its purpose justifies participation.

 

With respect to the inclusion of the FHFA in the national regulation of appraisers and its requisite periodic burden as to recordkeeping and reporting,  national uniformity as to the smallest of transactions and the least sophisticated of consumers is the hallmark of American democracy, justice and fairness. This system of regulations provides a de minimis level of State and Federal regulation, a “level floor of competency” below which the nation’s real estate appraisers in federally supported transactions may not go.

 

In no way does or could this duty of reporting and recordkeeping pose a burden upon the FHFA requiring a commitment of resources outweighing its due allocation and use of resources. It is by no means excessive or greater in any extent than the purpose of the FHFA as an agency. Under the proposed collection, the FHFA will not participate to the full extent as the other three federal financial institution regulatory agencies. For, the FHMA may not, under current law, obtain indirect ownership of or control over an AMC, as the other federal agencies may through a regulated depository institution as an intermediary.

 

In the context of the Proposed Collection, the FHFA should consider that it is the role of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to:

“‘promulgate rules, regulations, or procedures necessary to exercise the authority provided by this chapter.” It is designed to reduce, minimize and control burdens and maximize the practical utility and public benefit of the information created, collected, disclosed, maintained, used, shared and disseminated by or for the Federal government.” 5 C.F.R. §1320.01.

The Director increases the efficiency of American government through managing participation. The Director enables an agency to more greatly achieve its statutory purpose. The reduction of the regulatory duty and burden of the FHFA to the extent based upon its inherent purpose, function and bureaucratic structure is a reasoned reduction in agency paperwork and it has been so agreed upon by the agencies. No further reduction would enable the FHFA to enable struggling home buyers or restore our market of residential housing with adequate financial safety and soundness. When the reduction in agency duty is premised upon a lowering of the review standard required of real estate appraisers and real property is the fundamental asset supporting the difficult consumer transaction, the inherent purpose of the FHFA is undermined.

 

I thank you greatly for considering my thoughts and concerns. Please contact me as indicated above if you would require additional information.

 

Sincerely,

Lori G. Nuckolls

Lori Gayle Nuckolls, Esq.

 

 

 

 

cc: Federal Housing Finance Agency,

via email to: RegComments@fhfa.gov

 

cc: http://www.regulations.gov

Advertisements

Philosophy, Law and Politics

Is It Becoming a Meritocracy?

I attended the annual CBA-Roundtable Minority Summer Law Clerk Reception of the Cincinnati Bar Association, held this year in the Cincinnati headquarters of historic Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP. Taft made a stupendous effort in welcoming law students far beyond the bounds of the traditional path of the “stocks and bonds” law firm. The large gathering included prominent Cincinnati  attorneys and governing officials whose careers began much before the era of “discussions of Diversity and Inclusion.” Several first in the family college graduates and law students, whose summer private sector position was a continuation of their academic year law clerkship, expressed true and sincere appreciation for participation early in their careers. Many years ago, fear and resentment would have been evident, but less so in the era of the Clintons and the Obamas. Attorneys who are graduates of elite law schools are now a known entity.

My personal view toward issues of diversity and inclusion, as well as to most all subjects, does not go beyond one of academic diplomacy, based upon merit. I rarely, if ever, form an opinion which I would sternly support against another. Perhaps, doing so would be necessary if the law in Cincinnati and Ohio, state and federal, were more competitive as to client interests. It seems, rather, you may draft beyond reasonably anticipated future challenges.

Fundamentally, the issue of diversity and inclusion in the Cincinnati remains a question, even in light of the true expression of grace at this year’s Minority Law Clerk Reception, of revisionism in the interpretation of local history. Diversity and inclusion are, together, of the many questions asking the manner in which Ohio, and, specifically, Cincinnati, reach the accomplishments reached long ago by many cities and states in America. In some respect, modern issues of inclusive and diverse public and private policies require historical due diligence. This diligence would ask as to the possibly causative and still existing precursors to our issues of, as is our lengthy litany: “affirmative action;” “ending separate-but-equal or defacto segregation;” “integration;” “lack of discrimination;” and “transcending segregation.”

As a Sole Practitioner admitted into practice in the States of Ohio and New York, I have returned to my primary legal subject of administrative law, state and federal, after years in researching and writing on topics of federal litigation. Before, I was not permitted to present arguments found in the judicial opinions of courts beyond the Sixth Circuit, nor in scholarly secondary legal sources.

In solo general private practice, I have given comment on a variety of proposed Ohio Administrative Code provisions, as well as proposed regulations of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department Health and Human Services. With interpretative reliance upon the founding principles of American government and traditional legal methods of research and argument, one may readily suggest improvements in our governing law.

One belief I do hold is that, in America,  private legal practice, even mine, is the source of American common law. For, our common law  is actualized from custom unto law by courts and commercial contractual  dealings.

From this, questions arise as to how we might garner acceptance of all law school graduates, equally, by all employers. Have we asked how we do this without great disregard for personhood as to any? For, justice is not thereby accomplished. In asking that the least graduated are accepted first by the traditionally reclusive within the legal community, as is being done in both the private and public legal sectors, how will accreditation bullying be dissuaded if it is accorded profit and merit by being paid first?

In the last 25 years or so, Cincinnati has dramatically experienced major economic growth and prosperity. The local universities are more noteworthy than ever before for notable faculty and truly more expansive research programs and centers. Yet, the law in Ohio, has not similarly kept pace.

The Ohio Administrative Procedure Act, in its present form, dates from the mid-1950’s. The Ohio Revised Code has not been revised to encourage economic advance, no less to permit the successful management and retention of the material success Ohio, and Cincinnati, have enjoyed. Most developing cities and states have managed both law and money.

 Cincinnati does not live under the aura of national institutions of higher education that benefit Ohio’s northern cities. And, Ohio law has also not developed as has our international commerce has developed. To an even greater extent, the agenda of pending maters before the weekly meeting of the Ohio Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, indicates that Ohio’s administrative law is scarcely worthy of being deemed “final agency action” in 2018 by state and or federal standards.

Relative to the laws written by attorneys in the State of New York and within the federal government, the laws of Ohio are truly a cruelty.  Even if the cruelty does not result from enforcement of obsolete legal standards, the cruelty occurs when those who have chosen to reside and make commitments to neighbors and institutions are then finding themselves under an anvil of suppressive statutes and administrative rules lacking the modern reasoning and logic of the material goods, services and technologies imported into the State of Ohio  in interstate commerce to which they commit their funds.  Funds and services these arcane statutes profess to govern.

If our laws lack clarity and reasoning, no one can self-govern, regardless of partisanship or opinion. How do clients, attorneys and law students know the source of anxiety in professionalism and in consummating legal services? Without, a best-efforts approach to legal services and best-efforts selection of attorneys and law clerks how will any meritocracy ever be accepted or regarded? To what does our democracy then devolve?

As citizens, as well as attorneys, we have no publicly shared actualizing dialectic, Hegelian or otherwise. Our American government and economy, private and public, are defined as a natural, meritocratic system of profit-based competition, permitting the creation and ownership of value with respect for liberty and privacy.

In Cincinnati, the concern is that the majority of residents do not inform themselves and do not form opinions. They seem mentally transient, as I seem to believe I have heard others say. They seem without a sense of Hohfeldian right, or even privilege, to mentally consider information readily available to the public, no less form an opinion. There is a sense of self-imposed mental repression.

Perhaps the two major political parties gave for too long and without due meritocratic review opportunity to hold government office to those from a variety of social strata not ever before officeholders in America. These are those in the nation who were not among those graduated from elite academic American institutions of higher education. These are those not from the moneyed classes.

Yet, delegating the power to draft and or effectuate legislation and imprison citizens to those for centuries deemed scarcely qualified to hold office is neither democracy nor justice unless the officials demonstrate equal or superior merit.  These not yet officeholders were long denied candidacy for office, in part, because they were not of the rich and powerful aristocracy in America, among other reasons. This is the basis for the argument that the absence of participation as representatives was unjust. It is not an expression of unfairness that one is denied nomination because another candidate is of a greater college board ranking than thou. Such a denial is not violative of the thought of Edmund Burke, nor Jack Randolph, nor T.J. Such a denial or exclusion similarly comports with meritocratic selection of attorneys and legal arguments.

My thoughts on “what is wrong” in Cincinnati and Ohio, as the once Chair of Democrat Ward 7 John Albert “Socko” Wiethe, as the immediate predecessor to my father Charles Nuckolls,  as Chair, used to say, are derived from the phrase: “Let history be our guide.”

Lori Gayle Nuckolls, Esq.

Protected: Philosophy, Law and Politics

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Philosophy, Law and Politics

Should Income Parallel Success, Private and Government?

 The current salary of a Federal appellate judge sitting within one of the U.S.  judicial circuits is $220,600 per year. http://www.uscourts.gov/judges-judgeships/judicial-compensation. This includes the current annual salary of sitting Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the D.C. Circuit. If Judge Kavanaugh is promoted to the U.S. Supreme Court, he would be an Associate Justice and would earn $255,300 sitting under Chief Justice John Roberts. The Chief Justice earns $267,000.  http://www.uscourts.gov/judges-judgeships/judicial-compensation. Do their salaries adequately compensate them for the value of their labor and contribution to America and to Americans? How do we justly and fairly value their contribution?

 

Antifederalist No. 1 said of the proposed U.S. Constitution, in its “General Introduction: A Dangerous Plan of Benefit Only to the “Aristocratick Combination:”

 “I am pleased to see a spirit of inquiry … upon the subject of the NEW PLAN …. If it is suitable to the GENIUS and HABITS of the citizens of these states, it will bear the strictest scrutiny. The PEOPLE are the grand inquest who have a RIGHT to judge of its merits. The hideous daemon of Aristocracy has hitherto had so much influence as to bar the channels of investigation, preclude the people from inquiry …. At length the luminary of intelligence begins to beam its efflugent rays upon this important production….”

 In our modern words, We as the People of America govern our country having, liberated our American Colony from the British Empire, and having established a republican form of government. The Founding and Governing Fathers and Mothers, then deemed and still deem, their beloved People and Publick, the “tyrannous majority.” For, though we are all worthy of the essential human nature of mankind, we are not all worthy of ascending unto those among us who “represent the masses” comprising our American Republic. The Founding and current Governing Persons of America are of the privately governing intelligentsia of America, our “natural aristocracy,” not solely to be derived from the governing “Aristocratick Combinationand “daemon of Aristocracy” of Anti-Federalist parlance. Before the American Declaration of Independence, Englishman William Blackstone said, similarly of the English aristocracy, governing “peers of the realm are by birth hereditary counsellors.” (William Blackstone. Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book the First: Of the Rights of Persons. Ch. 5, l. 6.)(1765). How do we reform an economic structure in which value and income are determined and derived, not by merit and contribution to the administration and governance of society and our community, but by Roman game like, enzombieing, entertainment, tendered to a nonparticipatory public that is uninformed and is not capable of self-governance?

 

A philosophical appeal in English Statesman and Philosopher Edmund Burke‘s “Letter from The New to The Old Whigs” in, 1791, suggests that:

“A true natural aristocracy is not a separate interest in the state, or separable from it. It is an essential integrant part of any large body rightly constituted. It is formed out of a class of legitimate presumptions, which, taken as generalities, must be admitted for actual truths. To be bred in a place of estimation; to see nothing low and sordid from one’s infancy; to be taught to respect one’s self; to be habituated to the censorial inspection of the public eye; to look early to public opinion; to stand upon such elevated ground as to be enabled to take a large view of the widespread and infinitely diversified combinations of men and affairs in a large society; to have leisure to read, to reflect, to converse; to be enabled to draw and court the attention of the wise and learned, wherever they are to be found; to be habituated in armies to command and to obey; to be taught to despise danger in the pursuit of honour and duty; to be formed to the greatest degree of vigilance, foresight, and circumspection, in a state of things in which no fault is committed with impunity and the slightest mistakes draw on the most ruinous consequences; to be led to a guarded and regulated conduct, from a sense that you are considered as an instructor of your fellow-citizens in their highest concerns, and that you act as a reconciler between God and man; to be employed as an administrator of law and justice, and to be thereby amongst the first benefactors to mankind; to be a professor of high science, or of liberal and ingenious art; to be amongst rich traders, who from their success are presumed to have sharp and vigorous understandings, and to possess the virtues of diligence, order, constancy, and regularity, and to have cultivated an habitual regard to communative justice: these are the circumstances of men that form what I should call a natural aristocracy, without which there is no nation.”

American democracy guarantees: (1) liberty to act without encroachment; (2) freedoms of belief and expression; (3) a right to property; and (4) representative participation.  In drawing the line between the rights of personal and real property rights to enforce and those rights of personal and real property to not enforce, how should we draw the law attributing ownership? Do our governing authorities possess a metaphysical, in-kind contribution of productive labor, not yet acknowledged and compensated?  How do we attribute the right of ownership and upon what criteria do we base value?

 

Monetary creation, if to forever remain democratic in our society, requires an assurance of justice and fairness, guaranteed to the youngest of age within the smallest of political subdivisions. Justice and fairness are required within the smallest of political subdivisions in the United States of America to the largest. Within the U. S. of A., the sitting U.S. Supreme Court sits within America, as a political subdivision. America, itself, is within the various international entities to which the U.S.A. belongs. And, America’s own international political subdivision boundary exists coextensively with the sovereign political boundary of the United States itself. The financial compensation paid in America to our governing authorities, our natural aristocracy, should permit any American to ascend to the utmost respected stratum of a career in American government regardless of socio-economic stratum of origin. Such should be a coextensive definition of human rights under governing international law.

 

In creating and administering the three branches of our representative democracy in America, how do we determine the value of guaranteeing democracy itself, the value of the attorney work product of governing officials and of attorneys and judges?  Their work tasks are deemed entrusted to them by the people and deemed to be of inestimable value, for their tasks guarantee to every citizen freedom, liberty and justice.

 

Yet, how do we compensate governing judges and officials so that those who write, administer and interpret our laws may be those for whom doing so is within the “American dream,” regardless of socio-economic stratum of origin? All in government are held in proper honor and esteem for the values they hold dear and that they guarantee? Is a mere civil servant, governor, assemblyman, state judge, and the work they produce for the community less important than that of the president, senator, congressman, federal judge or agency secretary? How do we imbue citizens with patriotism and love of county when the salaries of their governing members are exceeded by those of professional sports team players, though the players express thoughts and values publicly protected by these governmental actors every day? How will the next Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court “make ends meet?”

Lori Gayle Nuckolls, Esq.

Philosophy, Law and Politics

Law Is Our Only Legally Required Social Didactic

Do we only garner community support and respect when we firmly plant our feet in the soil, or, in our concrete of modern times, and discuss our world from top to bottom. Those concerns of science are most significant and are necessary to our daily, quotidian existence. They are on top and are accorded a greater priority than those related to aesthetics and art. We respect our civilized lives, culture and government, as our governments have arisen from more, primitive versions of written governing documents: federal, state and local. We defend the rights and privileges our democratic republic grants and pledges to ensure to citizens and, in some cases, residents not yet citizens.

Every citizen, and those not yet citizens, in America, possess details that give rise to abstractions as attributes of personhood. Our American soil and modern concrete imparts into our indicia of personhood, and synergizes within our American populace and guests, a refinement of our civilization.

Americans will refine society until achieving natural extinction of our planet. America’s continuing writing of its history, and the contributions of its history makers, will share within the pages. In learning how to make and share history, we must explain the puzzles as we solve them. We mature within the course of both our history and our future, and the varied social institutions. More importantly, we must explain our popular lawmaking, both within the formal, authorized bodies of government, as well as lawmaking through the informal popular influence of citizens and residents.

Each law in America is an historical fact, from our legislatures as statute, and as common law and law at equity from state and federal judiciaries. (See, Maine, Henry Sumner. Ancient Law: Its Connection with the Early History of Society, and Its Relation to Modern Ideas, Chap. IX.)  As the history and nation grows and refines, commerce advances, and our world increasingly becomes more complex as do the contracts governing transactions. Legislatures enact and reform statutes. Governmental agencies study and regulate specialized subject maters. Our courts define words, review state action and rule upon issues of law and fact.

The communities we live in grow to more and more contain aesthetics, literary attributes, sciences, and technologies. Our laws increase to permit our use, and our continued revision of our laws permit their continued use. Most of our new laws arise from contracts between two or more parties. Contracts impart principles of fair and honest dealing, which Judges — elected and appointed — review and interpret, with justice and fairness to the parties, the legal community and society. The contracts increase in complexity and sophistication.

Generationally, each of us, as did our predecessors and as will our future descendants, gleans a sense of self. This sense of individual, personal morality exists distinct from our popular majority’s collective value system we voluntarily self-impose. (See, Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Chap. I.) All the laws of the community, as well as the values embodied within us, create a sacredness we and government respect. (See, Maine, Henry Sumner. Ancient Law: Its Connection with the Early History of Society, and Its Relation to Modern Ideas, Chap. IX.)

In the words of my father, Charles Butler Nuckolls, Jr., a retired history teacher: “patriotism is a love of country not for what it is, but for what it is able to become.” Our personal and collective morality, and the laws arising from them, are to be revised and remedied if we are to be properly accorded respect thereunder.

Lori Gayle Nuckolls, Esq.

 

Philosophy, Law and Politics

To Legalize, Or, Not To Legalize?

In discussing the current debate of whether the use and sale of marijuana should be generally allowed in each of the 50 States, and no longer be deemed a criminal activity, requires that thought be given to American history and traditional theories of the law. And, perhaps our debate should focus on the history of Prohibition, last century.

Currently proposed legislation before the U.S. Congress asks if the Federal government may, or should, dictate that the use of marijuana is legal conduct for every citizen in every state. Or, should the Federal Government respect the aged-old American doctrine of States Rights and the prudent theory of experimentation within and among jurisdictions, whether they be the Federal judicial Appellate Circuits, the States themselves, or the various political subdivisions therewithin?

As citizens, we must ask in what manner marijuana differs from the time honored American  custom of enjoying fermented and distilled spirits – alcohol. If marijuana is properly legal in the United States, regardless of locale, for social, and not only medical, purposes, what is the scientific rationale for permitting it being criminalized in any jurisdiction within the country? If legal in any State and deemed safe by our scientific community, is there a valid legal rationale for treating the use of marijuana differently from the current regulation of our use of alcohol?

Traditional grassroots, self-governance of communities in America is the foundation of our democracy, our representative republic. Governing jurisdictions, as small as towns and villages, may dictate legal policy as to the sale and use of alcohol within their jurisdictions. Yet, they may not proscribe the use of alcohol. This has only been done and repealed by a revision of the U.S.  Constitution. Marijuana, like alcohol, should properly be regulated below the Federal level by State and Local Governments only as they regulate  commerce within their boundaries. Like alcohol, marijuana requires more regulation than English muffins and wheat bread. Such regulation, though, results from theories of corporate and business structure, and the proper purposes of land use management – zoning restrictions.

If legal in one State, marijuana should be legal in all. And, the existence of the 50 States, and our various political subdivisions and territories, permits American capitalism to experiment.  Various business forms may evolve from the art of the “dry county,” the State owned and or regulated, stand alone “brick and mortar” business concern, or the State regulated, corner shop in the interstate or international grocery store.

And, there cannot be an argument for not fully expunging the criminal records of conviction and time served for offenders penalized for personal expression before their governing officials “saw the light.” It goes without saying, then, that, too, all criminal defendants currently “serving time” for marijuana only offenses should be released through existing transitional, reentry programs. Not doing so would be merely a creative theory of law ex post facto.

Lori Gayle Nuckolls, Esq.

Philosophy, Law and Politics

Is the Mandatory Reporting of Convictions to Relevant Agencies Necessary for Fairness and Justice in Our Courts?

Adequate diligence and complete information are necessary for fair and sound decisions by judges, in both civil and criminal matters. Might States benefit from an enhanced requirement that criminal convictions of licensed professionals, for both  lesser and more severe offenses, be reported to the State agency governing the defendant’s profession?

A measure before the New York State Legislature, Assembly (A11057-A) and Senate (S8909-A), would amend the New York education law to require reporting to the governing  New York State Education Department the criminal convictions and determinations of professional misconduct of persons licensed by the Education Department.  The District Attorney for each county within the State of New York would be required to report each conviction of a licensee to the Professional Conduct Officer of the Education Department. The licensee is similarly bound by an obligation of self-reporting. The licensee must self-report criminal convictions to the Education Department. The licensee is also required to report determinations of professional misconduct to the Education Department, regardless of jurisdiction.

A statutory system of fair reporting and due information provides those governed, such as those licensed by the New York Education Department, with both an incentive for proper professional conduct and a deterrence of nonprofessional conduct, before any ill deed is done. Professional codes provide learning within one’s professional disciple throughout one’s career, long after one’s formal academic training. And, a system of fair reporting insures that employers and the courts make fair, adequate and just determinations.

In founding the first American newspaper,  Publick Occurrences, first  sold in Boston on September 25, 1960, Benjamin Harris stated in his prospectus:

“That something may be done toward the Curing, or at least the Charming of that Spirit of Lying, which prevails amongst us, wherefore nothing shall be entered, but what we have reason to believe is true, repairing to the best fountains for our Information. And when there appears any material mistake in anything that is collected, it shall be corrected in the next. Moreover, the Publisher of these Occurrences is willing to engage, that whereas, there are many False Reports, maliciously made, and spread among us, if any well-minded  person will be at the pains to trace any such false Report, so far as to find out and Convict the First Raiser of it, he will in this Paper (unless just Advice be given to the contrary) expose the Name of such Person, as A malicious Raiser of a false Report. It is suppos’d that none will dislike this Proposal, but such as intend to be guilty of so villainous a Crime.”

Neither the public nor the courts benefit from acting upon an absence of information. And, no one subject to a mandatory reporting requirement benefits if deprived of the rehabilitative purpose of ostensibly putative measures by inadequate information.

Lori Gayle Nuckolls, Esq.

Philosophy, Law and Politics

Promoting Reasonable and Consistent State Agency Regulation in Ohio

Proposed new regulations of Ohio Executive Agencies are reviewed for adequacy by the Ohio Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, composed of members of the Ohio Senate and House.  In the current proposed revision of Ohio law governing the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (SB 221, amending Ohio Revised Code 106.021), perhaps it should be made mandatory that JCARR undertake review of whether a proposed regulation is contrary to law and similarly be required to request an invalidation of a proposed rule by the Ohio General Assembly upon making a finding that a proposed regulation is contrary to law. Under current law, both are left to JCARR’s discretion.

Mandatory review and invalidation is necessary because JCARR should be precluded from permitting unreasonable proposed rules and regulations to become effective. A regulation must be reasonable to be lawful. Agencies should adequately justify their decision making with sufficient analysis and explanation. It is the duty of JCARR to ensure as a balance and check on government that the agencies make wise and reasoned policy choices. JCARR does not supplant its policy choices for that of the agency, rather it only looks to the due and proper procedure and basis upon which the agency relies for the rule its seeks to promulgate. Such a requirement of reasonableness would result in regulation that is consistent with and does not conflict with governing law, without first relying upon a court for judicial review after the harm has been done. No committee of a state legislature should have within its discretion non-action upon arbitrary and capricious proposed agency regulation.

A review of the possible “adverse impact” of a proposed regulation is a preexisting requirement as to Ohio Revised Code 106.021(F). Usually neither an analysis nor finding of a possible adverse impact is reported for consideration as to the validity of a proposed regulation. Review of potential adverse impact usually merely addresses fiscal, business considerations, and not the substantive analysis required in legal drafting.

SB 221, Line 103, amending Ohio Revised Code 101.352, proposes to permit JCARR to seek an agency’s appearance to explain whether current rules reflect the principles and policies of the agency, or rather whether the agency should propose new rules that establish its present basis for regulation. Yet, this duty is permissive and subject to JCARR’s discretion and is not mandatory, even if JCARR is on notice that an agency’s regulations are not up to date? Would a mandatory provision place too great an administrative burden upon JCARR?

SB 221, Line 134, amending Ohio Revised Code 101.352, similarly permits that upon initiating review of an agency’s regulations and receiving an agency’s testimony at a hearing, JCARR “may” but is not required to vote upon whether to recommend that the agency review its regulations. Would making the vote mandatory create a violation of the separation of powers among the legislative, judicial and executive branches? Or, would it no more enhance the power and authority currently permitted JCARR than the creation of its power to review proposed executive agency regulations in the first instance?

SB221, Lines 1541-1619, amending Ohio Revised Code 121.931, permits a person to petition an agency to request a review of whether the agency has not properly revised or restated its regulations. If the agency denies the petition, the petitioner may appear at an agency hearing. In such a proceeding, how is the agency’s standard of review – that the petitioner has shown that the agency’s action in not revising its regulation is “erroneous” – to be defined? Is the burden of proof borne by the petitioner – that the agency’s previously stated “intention to deny the petition [for revision] is erroneous” — the same as a required showing of erroneousness by the petitioner as to the agency’s rationale for not granting the petition and undertaking a revision or restatement of the rule?  Does an inquiry as to whether the agency’s action is erroneous go only to questions of fact or also to whether the agency may have committed an error of law? Is a finding of erroneousness too high a standard for the petitioner to bear? Given that a petitioner may not appeal a denial of a petition within the agency, is an agency denial of a petition a final agency action permitting judicial review?

 

Do Young People Understand the Creation of the Law?

When looking at our three branches of government in America this electoral season, the role, place and stature of the executive, legislative and judicial branches should be well studied, Federal, State and Local. All citizens and residents, of all ages, should know the names of our governing officials from all three branches and their role in our community.

In guiding our young people, we need to go beyond a mention or two of the name of our Congressperson or the name of the Mayor or a member of our City Council. Children in this the second decade of our 21st century are truly knowledgeable of current events in the modern era, more so than ever in America’s history. They have seen the most recent national elections and campaigns. The know by first name Barack, Bernie, Bill, Colin, Condoleezza, Eric, George Sr., George W., Hillary, Loretta, Madeleine, and Mitt. They know that the current President is Donald and that the next might be Joe III.

Yet, we must share with them more than this. Especially, our young people need an acknowledgment and appreciation of the scholarship of the judiciary.  Popular understanding of our judicial system and its stewards guarantees the freedom of thought of those who appear before them as well as of our nation. Judicial decision making in the public interest benefits from a knowledgeable public.

A truly fundamental common law subject as the creation of a contract may provide a basis for an objective discussion of how we learn from our Judges and so gain an equal understanding of the three branches of government in America. Contract law is of general interest, noncontroversial and permits discussion of the art of the judiciary.

An example is taken from a legal opinion written by Federal Magistrate Judge Michael Newman of the Southern District of Ohio. Judge Newman is the recent President of the Federal Bar Association. His term in private legal practice prior to the bench was as a law firm Partner in Cincinnati and was lengthy and well accomplished.

In Traton News LLC v. Traton Corp., No. 3:11-cv-435, 914 F. Supp. 2d 901, (S.D. Ohio 2012), Judge Newman expressly acknowledged that the case posed “an issue of first impression in [his] Court.” 914 F. Supp. 2d at 909. Namely, the question newly presented was whether a person using the Internet and who accesses a certain website, in doing so, agrees to the Terms and Conditions set forth in the website as specified by the Terms and Conditions. And, would this create a binding agreement that would support personal jurisdiction pursuant to the governing Terms and Conditions? Judge Newman found that this did not create a contract for want of consideration. In this instance, the Internet user accessing the website did not receive a benefit supporting the existence of a bilateral contractual obligation.

We must appreciate such judicial thought and show such appreciation with greater encouragement of participation in community and government discussion? Popular understanding that Judges impart wisdom when new questions arise is needed. Civil peace and understanding require that young people learn American government at a young age.

In Cincinnati, do young teenagers understand the theory of the judiciary and its role in fashioning our common law from our amorphous popular thinking? In theory, Judges turn custom into law, and in fashioning the law, they educate our customs. The scholars of William Blackstone argue that our customs may only become common law if their tenets conform to our sense of natural reason and justice. Do we teach this to our young people so that they may grow up to understand an increasingly more complex nation, with a far more applicable hierarchy of institutions of higher education in that all of us within the 50 states must defer to the established hierarchy of universities and colleges? The young in turn may guide their parents in an increased understanding of the modern world and a respect for the judiciary.

The American public must be taught to defer to the constitutional function of the judiciary: the administration of legal decision making as to residents, citizens and government. With the fragile delicacy of Marbury v. Madison in its creation of our doctrine of judicial review, all within our nation must respect the separate, equitable power of the American Judiciary as to the executive and legislative branches of government. Popular understanding of our popular self-interest, in a country whose government force and power are derived and ensured only as individuals understand our principles of government, will only be stronger.

Lori Gayle Nuckolls, Esq.

A Return to Etiquette and Civility, Revisited. Or, Do Hate Speech Laws Conquer Hate Crimes?

In America, should we accept as expressions of public opinion speech and conduct that defy our traditions of etiquette and civility?  Is civility a word with a definition that is, or should be, coextensive with the public peace and order. In the future, perhaps we could encourage thought and discussion about our world in a kind and peaceful manner by requiring every licensed driver in the State of Ohio be automatically registered to vote upon mere renewal of the State issued drivers license. But, until such legislation, we might consider the propriety of the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in regulating hateful speech and conduct under Ohio law. At a minimum, State law, and eventually Federal, should be invoked to criminalize speech, and similarly expressive conduct, either intended, or likely, to evoke a harmful or violent response from nearby persons, in general, or one given person to whom a hateful or derogatory comment is directed.

Under longstanding Ohio judicial precedent, a criminal charge may be brought against a person for words, even by virtue of their content. Words may be deemed “likely, by their very utterance, to … invoke the average person to an immediate retaliatory breach of the peace.” State v. Turner, 2007 Ohio 5449, ¶ 109 (Ct. App. 8th Dist. 2007)(citing, State v. Hoffman, 57 Ohio St. 2d 12, at ¶ 1 (1979). In offering this view of the First Amendment, the Court in Turner, was commenting upon Ohio Revised Code § 2917.11(A), effective Jan. 25, 2002, which was enacted after the statements of the Ohio Supreme Court in Hoffman.  The Court in Turner also concluded that such speech, regardless of content, had been previously found to be “fighting words” under Ohio law.  Turner, 2007 Ohio 5449, at ¶ 109.

Since 2002, Ohio courts, State and Federal, have not been asked frequently to rule upon the manner in which Ohio Revised Code § 2917.11 regulates “hate speech” or “fighting words.” In the advent of the many complicated political and social discussions during this time in American history, we should look to the long extant legal provisions that have been reviewed across the country.   § 2917.11 is such a statute. For, this law expressly deems actus reus both: (1) “offensively coarse utterance [and] gesture[,]” as well as (2) “insulting [or] taunting [conduct] … likely to provoke a violent response.” § 2917.11(A)(2), (3).  Chapter 2917 of the Ohio Revised Code designates this criminal law “Disorderly Conduct,” as one of many “Offenses Against the Public Peace.”

As citizens in our communities in the State of Ohio, the recognition and proscription of fighting words and hate speech derive from the foundations of our democracy, and their requisite respect for the individual.  Our laws against speech and gestures that invoke either a fear of violence, violent urges, or violence itself deter those inclined to so act. Even more importantly, these criminal laws serve as a didactic to instill a code of conduct we rely upon in a community in which the people govern. Social activity and public debate should not provoke violence. We should, instead, look to partisan politics and the creation of third parties in our traditional two-party system, as well as the judicial third branch of government for adversarial resolution of disputes by courts and arbitrators.

Though the United States separated itself from England, our law owes much to the earlier enacted hate speech law in the United Kingdom, Public Order Act 1986, Chapter 64, Part I, Section 4, as amended (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1986/64/section/4). In its broadest provision, this law prohibits acts “whereby [a] person is likely to believe that … violence would be used or it is likely that …. violence will be provoked.” This does not impose an element of criminal intent upon the actor. Moreover, it also declares a person guilty who “distributes or displays to another person any writing [or] sign … threatening, abusive or insulting.” Id.

This British law would meet Justice Scalia’s requirements for constitutional restrictions upon speech in R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377 (1992). Essentially, R.A.V. prohibits restrictions upon speech and conduct which treat speech on one topic or within the one category differently, by virtue of viewpoint. In its Syllabus, R.A.V. states:

The ordinance, even as narrowly construed by the State Supreme Court, is facially unconstitutional, because it imposes special prohibitions on those speakers who express views on the disfavored subjects of “race, color, creed, religion or gender.” At the same time, it permits displays containing abusive invective if they are not addressed to those topics. Moreover, in its practical operation, the ordinance goes beyond mere content, to actual viewpoint, discrimination. Displays containing “fighting words” that do not invoke the disfavored subjects would seemingly be useable ad libitum by those arguing in favor of racial, color, etc. tolerance and equality, but not by their opponents. St. Paul’s desire to communicate to minority groups that it does not condone the “group hatred” of bias-motivated speech does not justify selectively silencing speech on the basis of its content. Pp. 391-393.

505 U.S. at 378.  And, the municipal ordinance at issue in R.A.V. proscribed conduct that “one knows or has reason to know ‘arouses anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or gender.’” Id. Arguably, this imposes a criminal penalty without a requirement of criminal intent.

Both the UK statue and R.C. § 2917.11 prohibit the act of improper speech or conduct, in itself, regardless of intent or an effect of actually producing a violent response. This is in the nature of a balancing of the interests of the public good in the guarantee of our right to free speech versus the proper regulation of speech and conduct harmful to the public good and the public peace

Speech likely to incite violence may possess noteworthy ideas we seek to have fully presented before us. And, we may not censor speech or conduct potentially deemed fighting words or acts because they exhibit a certain content or view. Rather, to be hate speech, the words, gestures or conduct used may not be found to be essential to the ideas sought to be conveyed. Instead, the words or conduct must go beyond free expression to communicate via a means not proper for civil discussion within a representative democracy of a self-governing people.  R.A.V., 505 U.S., at 385.

In Ohio Revised Code § 2917.11, we do not justify the criminalization of acts and speech with reference to their viewpoint. Turner; Hoffman; State v. Cunningham, 2006 Ohio 6373, at ¶ 22 (Ct. App. 10th Dist. 2006); accord, R.A.V.,  505 U.S., at 389. In the thought of Justice White offered in his Concurring Opinion in R.A.V.:

Fighting words are not a means of exchanging views, rallying supporters, or registering a protest; they are directed against individuals to provoke violence or to inflict injury. Chaplinsky, 315 U.S. at 572. Therefore, a ban on all fighting words or on a subset of the fighting words category would restrict only the social evil of hate speech, without creating the danger of driving viewpoints from the marketplace. See ante at 387. 

 

In light of the many creative legislative proposals in Ohio regarding Sanctuary State and Sanctuary City status, as well as the mandatory voter registration of licensed drivers, would Ohio political subdivisions benefit from more stringent fighting word or hate speech provisions. Such local laws could be tailored to their unique popular demographics, topics in discussion, and independent concerns of State and Federal law.

The First Amendment exists to ensure that when the popular majority imposes its lawful preferences as to the obligatory manner of public debate, and specifies and restricts certain categories of speech, it does not penalize the speech or conduct it specifies and restricts by topic content or viewpoint. We must enact our restrictions and adjudicate each defendant presented as possibly guilty with the requisite sensibilities of other than the hateful, resentful and tyrannous majority.

Lori Gayle Nuckolls