Friday, January 14th, 2011

According to “TrustandVerify,” an AK-47 like this can be bought via the Arizona Republic classifieds

Much of the Internet traffic following up on the Tucson shooting has dwelled on what could have been done to treat Jared Loughner’s apparent mental illness.

Well, first of all, let’s wait for an assessment by mental health professionals. Granted, he walks like a duck, and smirks like a duck—but I’m no clinician.

And second, the idea that “any one of us” could have picked up the phone, called a state agency, and “gotten this guy off the streets” is laughable. Yes, Arizona’s commitment statute is different from that of other states and does permit any person to make such a call.

But who will answer? We have watched as our state services, including mental health, have been decimated. Is there anyone in fantasyland who thinks state health professionals are standing by, with empty caseloads, awaiting your (likely uninformed) call?

If so, you may want to turn yourself in.

And on the mental health question, Linda Valdez at the Arizona Republic wrote the other day on the shooting. She mused on whether early intervention by medical professionals could have prevented Loughner’s actions.

I try not to read the comments that follow news stories—they’re too depressing. But one post did catch my eye. That could be because it included an arresting image (above). But it also could be due to the fact that it examined the Republic’s own practices that may contribute to a more violent society.

I will let “TrustandVerify” speak for himself:

“There are currently more than 20 guns for sale by private parties in your newspaper. As I understand it, none of these purchases would require a background check. Some of them are sport guns for hunting birds or other animals that can be eaten.”

“[But] some of them are extremely bad news, such as the AK47 Shorty Pistol I have pictured below. Crazy people buy guns like this from private parties without a background check. And your newspaper is facilitating the exchanges for profit.”

No responding post from Linda Valdez or the Republic yet. Maybe I should call a state agency to raise the issue. I’m sure they’re awaiting my call.

This morning, Chief U.S. District Judge John Roll will be laid to rest in Tucson. As we and others reported before, he was gunned down on January 8 in an attack that was directed at U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Many will undoubtedly attend the funeral mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church. But far more will be unable to make the trip. For those people, honoring the judge may be as close as your federal courthouse—or even the Web.

As Above the Law has reported, the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Alex Kozinski, has ordered flags at all federal courthouses in the Circuit to be flown at half-mast. But he’s gone further than that. He wants to share what that looks like.

The Ninth Circuit website includes a growing photo gallery of flags at those courthouses. And Judge Kozinski asked Above the Law readers whether they could assist the Circuit: If you see that your local federal courthouse is not represented, please take a photo (with flag) and send it to the Circuit.

When I read the news item at ATL, I was a bit skeptical. For I could pretty easily picture in my mind’s eye what a courthouse looked like, and what a flag looked like. Aggregating hundreds of them would provide a lot of volume, I thought, but not much insight.

Well, I was wrong. As a visual tribute to a fallen judge—one of the Circuit’s own—it is very powerful. I found myself peering intently at every courthouse, moved more and more as I scrolled down the page.

As you might guess, Arizona’s own federal courthouses reside near the top of the page. Take a few quiet moments today to look at the page and to think on John Roll’s service. In an upcoming issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, we will run a memoriam to the judge, who was a legal leader and a friend to the magazine.

Three related items:

  • The State Bar of Arizona, in partnership with the University of Arizona, has established the John M. Roll Memorial Fund. Money used will provide scholarships to students attending Judge Roll’s alma mater, the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona. More information is here, and you can contribute here.
  • Because every interaction is an opportunity for learning, this news story got me wondering about the origins of flying flags at half-mast. Leave it to Wikipedia to make all clear. Among the fascinating facts:

“The tradition of flying the flag at half-mast began centuries ago, to allow ‘the invisible flag of death’ to fly at the top of the mast—which signified death’s presence, power, and prominence. In some countries, for example the UK, and especially in military contexts, a ‘half-mast’ flag is still flown exactly one flag’s width down from its normal position, and no lower, to allow for this flag of death. This was the original flag etiquette.”

  • Next week, I will report on another look at courthouses—this one will be in book form, used to celebrate a law firm’s anniversary and to exhibit pride in its trial accomplishments.