James J. Kilpatrick has died

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Here is a UPI story about the death of conservative columnist James J. Kilpatrick. Mr. Kilpatrick was probably best known to many people for his role on the Point/Counterpoint segment on 60 minutes, which then led to a Saturday Night Live skit featuring Jane Curtin and Dan Ackroyd (“Jane, you ignorant slut!”).

But as a columnist, he was well-known as a lover of words (and I quite enjoyed his column on that). He also had a weekly column in which he discussed Supreme Court issues. And that is how I ended up being interviewed by him.

You see, back in 2001 I sued the Columbus Metropolitan Library over their shoe rule. By 2004, that case had made its way to the Supreme Court. I had filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, which is how one requests that the Supreme Court takes your case and decides it. As part of his Supreme Court work, and with a dedicated thoroughness, Mr. Kilpatrick must have looked at every petition filed with the Supreme Court, since he managed to see my petition and was intrigued.

Here is how he started his column about my case:

One of the happy aspects of covering the Supreme Court is that a reporter never knows what will turn up in the daily crop of petitions for review. Most of the petitions range in dullness from the merely soporific to the truly stupefying, but now and then a case comes along that brightens the jaded eye. For example, Case No. 03-1263, Neinast v. Board of Trustees.

He was quite even-handed in his treatment:

The petitioner makes a persuasive case. A public library is surely at least a limited public forum. Accordingly, limitations on access to its resources must have a rational basis. Such limitations may properly seek to prevent future harms, but these potential harms “must be real, not merely conjectural.” There must be some plausible evidence that a proposed limitation will alleviate these harms in a direct and material way.

The library’s response to this line of argument is remarkably flimsy. There was some testimony that “feces, semen, blood and broken glass” occasionally had been observed on library floors. In its effort to document incidents of hazard “to barefoot patrons,” the library specifically cited an incident in which a patron hurt himself on a staple in a carpet. As Neinast observes, the patron was a child lying on a carpeted floor during a story-reading session. The awful gash was not on his foot. It was a scratch on his arm, quickly covered by a Band-Aid. Quelle horreur!

You can read the whole column here. [By the way, the Supreme Court did not take my case, so the current state of the law, at least in the 6th Circuit, is that it is not a violation of the First Amendment right of access to free speech for libraries to exclude barefooted patrons.]

I shall remember him fondly.

UPDATE: You can see my petition here (PDF).

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7 Responses to “James J. Kilpatrick has died”

  1. Beach Bum Says:

    If the library made the anti barefoot rule to protect themselves form lawsuits, did anyone point out to them that the very rule itself is what caused them to get sued? Or did that irony go completely over their heads?
    Also, were the 1968 youngstown and 1969 San Francisco cases presented to them as examples of anti-barefoot legislation being shot down?

  2. Bob Neinast Says:

    Yes, I did point out to the library the irony of it, in oral argument, if I remember correctly. The thing is, I really made an attempt to get them to change their policy before filing suit. However, after I had sent a few emails, and been evicted (contrary to their stated rules), their Executive Director responded by saying, “We will not respond to further correspondence on this matter.” From my understanding, my lawsuit did cost them a fair bit of money: much more than any barefoot injury suit would have.

    The 1969 San Francisco news article was presented to the court. They ignored it. The Youngstown case was not presented, since I just found it and got a copy of it fairly recently.

  3. Beach Bum Says:

    “They ignored it”. Amazing how phony the justice system really is to varying degrees in most societies, ours is no exception. (Though we boast about our individual freedoms more than most free countries.) So much is based on pre-decided outcomes, and it’s the usual primate behavior of ‘us vs them’ and the human nature of hierachical social structures not allowing themselves to appear to ‘lose’ the ‘battle’ to a perceived ‘lower’ so they can appear dominant and powerful and save face in front of their peer group.

  4. vas Says:

    “the library specifically cited an incident in which a patron hurt himself on a staple in a carpet. As Neinast observes, the patron was a child lying on a carpeted floor during a story-reading session. The awful gash was not on his foot. It was a scratch on his arm, quickly covered by a Band-Aid. Quelle horreur! ”

    Bob, do you know if the child’s parents sued the library over this scratch?

  5. Bob Neinast Says:

    No, the child’s parents did not sue the library.

    The Library’s incident reports had even more “severe” injuries, including a little girl who scraped the skin off the top of her toe (she was barefoot), and a woman wearing shoes who nearly had her foot broken under the gap of a door. Neither of these filed a injury lawsuits, either.

    A selection of the library incident reports is here.

  6. vas Says:

    “No, the child’s parents did not sue the library.”

    Then what made the library expect a lawsuit for a hypothetical barefoot injury? And why did they not issue a “no bare arms” or “no lying on the floor” rules? Or did they?

  7. Ignorance, Arrogance, or Both « Society for Barefoot Living Says:

    […] Arrogance, or Both By Bob Neinast I am going to pull up some comments from the entry on the death of James J. Kilpatrick, in which I mentioned his article about my lawsuit against the Columbus Metropolitan […]

    Notice that this last question is addressed in a newer blog entry, Ignorance, Arrogance, or Both.

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