August 5, 2008

O'Reilly's legal eagles lay another egg

Science reporting is bad enough (worse still the ill-informed bloggers who derive their fevered petroleum hallucinations from it).

Legal reporting is often equally inept. Abysmal legal reporting from actual lawyers is inexcusable, even when they're appearing on Bill O'Reilly's idiotic Fox News opéra bouffe.

O'Reilly occasionally features a segment in which he wheels out not one but two attorneys to blather about the day's hot topics in the law. One of them, Lis Wiehl, doesn't even know which court outranks which in New York State's appellate system.

The other, Megyn Kelly, champions dissenting opinions she hasn't even read, or at least doesn't understand.

This evening, O'Reilly and his panel of legal experts were discussing a Supreme Court of Texas case, Pleasant Glade Assembly of God v. Schubert, which I mentioned last week. Laura Schubert, the plaintiff, alleged a number of harms caused by a series of "exorcisms" that took place at a Pentecostal church.

Some of those harms were psychological and others physical. The latter included assault, battery, and false imprisonment.

Much of the opinion, which I didn't discuss in any great detail, had to do with distinguishing between the psychological and physical harms and attempting to extricate both — or either — from the constitutional protections extended to worshipers by the First Amendment's Free Exercise of Religion Clause.

There was also a procedural question as to whether the Pleasant Glade church was inappropriately playing both ends against the middle with respect to the psychological vs. physical distinctions.

The bottom line, however, is that the majority opinion dismissed all of the claims. Yet Megyn Kelly told Bill O'Reilly, purportedly by way of agreeing with the dissenting opinion, that the lower court of appeals' decision in favor of Laura Schubert awarding her judgment (money) for the physical harms was left intact. Totally incorrect.

In fact had O'Reilly's expert bothered to actually read the dissent, she would have had that explained to her in some detail, if she didn't pick it up from the majority opinion, which concludes: "We reverse the court of appeals' judgment and dismiss the case." Emphases added.

And the dissent, which Megyn Kelly claimed to agree with, is all about objecting to the dismissal of the judgment pertaining to the physical harms, having not so much of a quarrel with Free Exercise protections over those claiming psychological harms arising from religious dogma. No quarrel at all, as a matter of fact.

That the judgment on the physical harms was reversed is the whole reason why this case is noteworthy and presumably also why the O'Reilly gang of legal experts was discussing it in the first place!

You might as well read the Onion as rely on O'Reilly and his guests.

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