Chalk Lines

To understand the applicability of today’s bizarro case, one must first understand the structure of court systems throughout the country. There are federal courts, state courts, and special courts. Attorneys generally understand the differences in jurisdiction, claims, limitations on recovery, and applicable court rules between the various courts, but I venture to say most citizens lack a solid understanding of the judiciary.

Federal courts are defined by the Constitution or enabling legislation creating subordinate federal trial and appellate courts, territorial, bankruptcy, immigration, and so forth types of special courts. There frankly are not many parameters for federal courts in our Constitution, which is pointedly obvious when you hear Democrats talk about expanding the Supreme Court past nine justices, as there is no limit mentioned in the Constitution. Packing the Supreme Court is nothing new, as FDR gave it a try during his time as President. The growth of litigation from our founding to now is either because of expanded courts and expanding federal laws, or was what caused the expansion of the courts. Anyway, there are lots of federal courts.

State courts go by a lot of names. Georgia has appellate courts (Supreme and the lower tiered Court of Appeals) and “of record” trial courts which are basically Superior Court, which handles almost everything (every county has a Superior Court), and State Court, which handles most civil claims other than domestic and land disputes, and misdemeanor crimes (only 50 out of 159 counties have State Courts). Georgia also has courts in juvenile matters, probate issues, magistrate, and tax court, plus a myriad of administrative courts.

So, Kelly, that analysis was so brief as to be useless, but also more than I wanted to know. What’s up?

The Sixth Circuit United States Court of Appeals (COA) covers four states: Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio. The 6th Circuit COA rules on federal law applicability in chalk linesmatters properly before it, usually interpreting state law. Can the 6th Circuit decide differently than the 11th Circuit (to which Georgia belongs)? Absolutely, and it happens a lot. If the Supreme Court cares to resolve the difference, it can. If it wants to.

The 6th Circuit COA just ruled that Lovely Rita, the town parking enforcer, can NOT use chalk to mark tires of cars parked on city streets as it is a violation of the privacy rights of the car owner. Huh? The car is parked on a city street, in plain view and the use of chalk seems an incredibly minimal intrusion on anyone’s privacy.

“The city does not demonstrate, in law or logic, that the need to deter drivers from exceeding the time permitted for parking — before they have even done so — is sufficient to justify a warrantless search under the community caretaker rationale,” the court said.

So, for now, my family in Tennessee can NOT be cited for overstaying a parking spot IF Rita used a chalk marker. But parking violators in any of the other 46 states (or D.C.) are still to be wary of Rita.

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