Paul Jacob

There's a certain type of "activist judge" everybody seems to like. One's in the news right now, defending kittens.

I've heard such judges praised across the political spectrum. Yes, leftists, centrists, rightists, libertarians, environmentalists, Christians, and Wiccans love these judges' activism — I've heard these judges praised even by those who say they are against "judicial activism."

And yet, this form of judicial activism is expressly forbidden by the U.S. Constitution. Of course, that doesn't stop these judges. So what's new?

Kittens, that's what.

Michelle Murray, age 25, recently appeared before Judge Michael A. Cicconetti in an Ohio municipal court. Ms. Murray, you see, had been working as an animal rescuer, but had hit tough times and found herself having to move. She became stressed out and unable to take care of the cats she had in her possession. And people kept dropping off more cats! She said she had tried to call the local Humane Society, but (as the News-Herald informs us) "panicked after three cages of cats were dropped off at her home." So she dropped the felines off at a local park. Thirty-three of them, some of them mere kittens.

Now, had she freed a nest of garter snakes, almost no one would have cared. But these are house cats, which most people think must be protected. It's inhumane to set these animals back into the wild, where nature can do its usual way with them, red in tooth and claw and all that. (Of course, cats that survive in this condition are called feral, and live as predators and scavengers at least as well as possums and coyotes and rats; but that, I'm told, is irrelevant.) Since Ms. Murray was an animal rescue worker, she didn't have much standing to challenge the law under which she was charged.

And she had most definitely broken the law. She apologized profusely.

Her expressed regret made no difference to the judge, however. "People panic and commit crimes, they use drugs, they commit domestic violence," the judge pointed out. "But this wasn't one incident. You did it again the next day." Murray had admitted to trying to unload another feline after first being charged with the crime, a cat that later was put under by the local shelter.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.