Straining Credibility - The Missourian: Opinion

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Straining Credibility

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Posted: Saturday, June 14, 2014 1:48 pm | Updated: 12:48 pm, Thu Oct 23, 2014.

A judge ruled this week against a group of citizens who sued the Franklin County Commission over the creation of the county’s municipal court. 

Associate Judge Robert Schollmeyer ruled that the Missouri House bill that allowed the county to establish the court did not violate certain provisions of the Missouri Constitution. 

The judge’s ruling was not a surprise. In our view, the case was without merit. 

So was another lawsuit filed against the county over the appointment of attorneys to represent it. It was brought by one of the same plaintiffs who sued the county over its municipal court. That case was dismissed a week ago by a different judge. 

That same plaintiff, a regular critic of county government, has vowed to appeal the municipal court case to the Supreme Court. That is his right under the due process and equal protection clauses of the Missouri and U.S. constitutions. 

We support that right however misguided his intentions may be or however dubious the legal arguments may be in the case. What we oppose is frivolous lawsuits that are filed for the purpose of harassment or out of pure spite.

There is no question that some of the people behind these lawsuits are unabashed critics of county government. That much is obvious. They don’t like the people running the county or many of their decisions. They delight in pushing the envelop in the exercise of their criticism. They have now turned to the courts to challenge the county’s decisions. 

Frivolous lawsuits waste time, money, and judicial resources. Judges are empowered to make the call whether a case is frivolous or not. If a case is deemed to be frivolous, a judge can order fines or sanctions against the party bringing the action. 

That didn’t happen in this case, In reality, it hardly ever happens. Maybe that is a good thing. There is nothing more American than criticizing our government. 

But there are risks when you use the courts to redress your grievances in an inappropriate way. 

We hope the people behind these lawsuits appreciate that fact and that they risk losing credibility in the court of public opinion by filing lawsuits that have no merit or that are filed purely for harassment purposes.

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