Monday, June 23, 2008


I must confess to an error.

I was absolutely certain that the Courts of Appeals had to release decisions before their term ended on June 30. I was so certain that I planned my time off around this fact. I cannot tell you how certain I was that this was true.

However, when others started asking me how I knew and started making plans based on my response, I had a moral obligation to verify (or falsify) what I knew.

This is one of the principles of the ethics of belief. We cannot always hold all of our beliefs up to the light of reason and evidence, so we must pick and choose which to examine and which will go unexamined. One of the criteria for picking and choosing is the effect of asserting a proposition on others.

Anyway, I could find no confirmation that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ended its term on June 30.

That was bad enough. How was something that was so certain be so hard to verify?

Then I thought of a way to test my hypothesis - to look for decisions released in July and August (other than court business such as stays of execution that have no set time limit).

I found some.

Now, I believe that my original certain belief was wrong. We might not get an opinion on or before June 30th.

I feel horrible about this.

At the same time, there are a lot of people out there professing things to be true who do not feel a sense of obligation to double-check their reasons for believing it before they inflict costs on others. And certainty is no guarantee of truth.

Yet, the fact that a particular moral obligation is so widely ignored is not a defense of ignoring it oneself.

I offer my appologies to any who made plans based on incorrect information. I should have done this sooner.


Anonymous said...

It's alright, Alonzo. Since you've made all of the Pledge posts, everyone has more time to prepare for the decision, and others have more time to be exposed to your moral arguments.

Anonymous said...

Is it legal for a court to hear a case and then never give a ruling at all? That would be one way for a court to avoid making a politically unpopular, yet legally correct, ruling that the judges involved do not have the courage to hand down.

CrypticLife said...

doug s.,

A court can do things which amount to the same thing -- there is the "political question" doctrine which is essentially a way for the court to avoid decisions.

From Wikipedia:

"In United States law, a ruling that a matter in controversy is a political question is a statement by a federal court declining to rule in a case because:

1) The U.S. Constitution has committed decision-making on this subject to a coordinate branch of the federal government;
2) There are inadequate standards for the court to apply; or
3) The court feels it is prudent not to interfere. "

Wikipedia's not a great source of info, but that substantially covers it (and I particularly like the phrasing in case 3, because it's essentially the truth).

CrypticLife said...

Incidentally, here's a case of a school taking the pledge out of their end-of-year ceremony.

Sheldon said...

Does this mean the Pledge series will be extended? Or do you plan to move on and write on a larger variety of topics? I hope the latter.

vjack said...

No worries. We all make mistakes, even the Christian god. I'd look at it this way - you got us all prepared for when the ruling does eventually drop. That is still quite an accomplishment in my book.

bullet said...

Echoing the above.

I would not have even known about this without your posts and the others who have picked up the gauntlet.