Monday, March 11, 2013

Dumbest case ever before a Supreme Court

The Supreme Court we're talking about here is not the Supreme Court, rather it's merely a State Supreme Court, the Supreme Court of the State of New York to be precise. And actually, it's not a supreme court, as we usually understand the term, at all. In New York, the Supreme Court is just the trial level court. Anyone who has ever watched Law and Order probably realizes this, as cases are always before a Supreme Court (Part something or other). Still, it's a long way from simple traffic court.

The case we're talking about is New York Statewide Coalition v. New York City Board of Health and Human Hygiene, et al. Doesn't ring any bells? It's a lawsuit filed by a number of groups and businesses in the State contesting Mayor Bloomberg's ordinance banning the sale of soft drinks in sizes larger than sixteen ounces. Judge Milton Tingling in the Manhattan Supreme Court ruled today that the ordinance was invalid, that it is unconstitutional because it is "arbitrary and capricious."

Judge Tingling went into great detail in his thirty-six page ruling, noting how the application of the ordinance was so inconsistent as to make it wholly ineffective, with regard to its stated purpose, even if it was valid. For the ordinance does not apply to all businesses selling soft drinks larger than 16 ounces, but only to restaurants, proper, and vendor carts. Grocery stores--many of which sell fountain drinks--would be exempt, as would all 7-11 stores. This is because of a Memorandum of Understanding ( a MOU) that exists between the State's Department of Health and the State's Department of Agriculture. Basically, this agreement established that certain businesses--like grocery stores and 7-11's--which fall under the latter's jurisdiction would still be inspected by health departments because of their hybrid nature (7-11, for instance, sells food like a restaurant but also sells produce and dry goods), but would be exempt from ordinances specific to businesses under the jurisdiction of the Health Department.

Ultimately, this was inconsequential, as Judge Tingling found that the ordinance was beyond the scope of the City Health Department's authority, insofar as it could not treat obesity as a disease for purposes of establishing rules in the same way it could treat other diseases and food contaminations that it is tasked to control.

This is simple stuff, really. The Department of Health is not empowered to protect people from themselves, from their own choices, but from things beyond their control. Ordering a large soft drink is a choice one makes, plain and simple. It may not always be the wisest of choices, but neither is eating three slices of pie for desert. And if the City could regulate soda intake, why not pie intake? The rule is just so incredibly stupid, it boggles the mind how supposedly intelligent people--like Bloomberg and his advisors--could believe this was a smart move, a valid ordinance. Of course, there are plenty of other examples of such stupidity. One need look no farther than a nearby State and its Governor.

Bloomberg's legal team has vowed to appeal the ruling. In the meantime, Judge Tingling also ruled that the City was responsible for all attorneys' fees and court costs, so Bloomberg's stupidity will cost the taxpayers some more jingle. Good thing they have so much to spare...

Cheers, all.

1 comment:

  1. P. 36 of the court's decision: "...all other reliefs sought including attorneys' fees are denied". So (if my English comprehension is correct) your last paragraph contradicts the actual ruling. My question to the professionals: why were attorneys fees denied? Thanks