If statutes of limitation no longer apply, well, then, be our guest. Who needs “the Byrd Rule”?
Harvey Weinstein really started something. Or his cowardly “brave” accusers did.
In this new time warp, are there not aspects of bewilderment juxtaposed amid all these unwanted-sex accusations dating back 30 and 40 years?
In settled law, we have a concept called “statutes of limitation.” Limitations statutes painfully and regretfully recognize that, with the passage of enough time, memories fade and evidence innocently disappears. Moreover, at some point, even the worst of people deserve some sort of repose. Thus, a victim of a tort — a social wrong like a slip-and-fall — may have only two years to sue. If the victim sues even one day late, there is no mercy; the case is dismissed. When a written contract is breached in many states such as California, the victim has four years to seek legal recourse. Sue one day after the statute has run, and no recourse. If the breached contract was not integrated but merely oral, the clock for bringing a legal action runs out at only two years — because there is no documentation to augment other evidence. A case of defamation — only one year. In fact, under a curiosity of the law called the “single-publication rule,” a person defamed in a book that is published in a limited edition — like only eight copies ever produced, placed respectively in eight separate university libraries in hard-to-find archival stacks, such that no one even knows the manuscript is there — also has only one year to sue, even though she does not even know for years and years about the hidden limited volume that basely defames her. The statute runs from when the book is published, not from when the defamation victim or others learn of it.
Thus, it seems rather striking that this Harvey Weinstein Epoch now is resulting in television studios immediately terminating contracts, movie deals being squelched, finished movies being canned before screening, speeches being canceled, guest appearances being rescinded, careers ending — often based on allegations of events that may have happened decades and even scores ago. Just fascinating: the fabulously gifted actor, Kevin Spacey, sunk faster than a victim of President Frank Underwood. The indescribably vile pig, Louis C.K., oink-oinked into oblivion. The cerebral Leon Wieseltier and another at the New Republic. Powerhouses at NPR, at Hollywood studios. Allegations against revered actors like Richard Dreyfuss. And of course the Roy Moore drama, timed so elegantly to erupt days before a critical United States Senate election, notwithstanding that the guy has been a firebrand in the heat of Alabama public life for decades.
To the degree that allegations against Bill Cosby are true (as seems, at least to some degree and perhaps completely), one can grasp that accusers, if drugged and incoherent/quasi-comatose at the time of battery, would be entitled to have their limitations periods tolled, as a matter of fairness, until circumstances evolve so that they reasonably would grasp what may have happened. The law allows that exception to limitations statutes in certain situations where people have been deceived and defrauded to the degree that they could not have known that they were victimized at the time of the tort. Therefore, a “discovery rule” gets tacked onto their limitations period, stopping the clock from running until the plaintiff knew or should have known about the wrong.
And yet the allegation of the 14-year-old who asseverates that she was intimate with a Moore over 30 raises its own questions.
It is unclear whether or why some people claim things that never happened. But some guy named John Mark Karr, a school teacher, got himself arrested in Bangkok in 2006 after publicly confessing that he murdered JonBenét Ramsey. He claimed that he had drugged, sexually assaulted, and accidentally killed her. In the end, the authorities let him go a short few months later, saying it just never happened. So what was that about? And the white woman, Rachel Dolezal, who claimed to be black, heading a local NAACP chapter in Spokane. Or people who gain notoriety by claiming that racists have attacked them, only to be exposed as quacks who fabricated their own injuries? Or Lena Dunham falsely claiming to have been raped? Or Al Sharpton’s claim to fame: the false accusations surrounding Tawana Brawley.
It turns out that sometimes people make false accusations, even placing their own morals and lifetime reputations into public disdain. But there are more questions:
Juanita Broaddrick says that Bill Clinton raped her. Kathleen Willey says that Bill Clinton sexually assaulted her. Paula Corbin Jones says that Bill Clinton sexually assaulted her. Monica Lewinsky — ’nuff said. So why is Bill Clinton not “canceled”? Why is he still a featured speaker for Democrats? Why is he still a star at Democrat conventions? What makes the dignity of Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, Paula Corbin Jones, and Monica Lewinsky less than the other accusers? Why does Bill Clinton still have access to proper society? Why hasn’t he been Kevin Spaceyed and Louis C.K.O.’d?
Why is Roman Polanski given a pass? We know that Meryl Streep, the delirious prophetess who proclaimed Harvey Weinstein “god” as part of her Hollywood ministry, has urged ever so passionately for Roman Polanski’s return, exoneration, and acceptance into proper society. When she made that proclamation at a Hollywood awards ceremony on national live television, she was cheered wildly, proving an exception to the aphorism that no prophet is honored in her own land. But if Polanski did that which others among the now-damned did, why does he get a pass? What makes him more, and Moore less?
And now to the one that really bewilders. It seems that the hapless Republicans cannot get a major piece of legislation through Congress. To some degree, the GOP deserves a bit of compassion: although they assuredly do have majorities in the House and United States Senate, that Senate majority is razor-thin, and they have that squeaky-tight majority only barely with the help of a few mavericks and GOP representatives from liberal states. It really seems that a fair argument can be made, though no one makes it — and many of us staunch conservatives are just too frustrated to make it — that Republican Judgment Day ought not come until the GOP picks up a few more senators next November. And they will. Despite all that frustrates about them, despite losing governorships in the two blue states of New Jersey and Virginia, the 2018 lopsided election map for the United States Senate and the predictable failure of Democrats to make real inroads among Republican voters should see the GOP emerging with 54-57 or so Senators. And if those enhanced numbers still prove useless for the subsequent two years, a plague on them.
However, part of their current problem is a procedural foolishness called “The Byrd Rule.” This obstructionist hurdle creates impracticable difficulties for the Senate’s majority party to enact legislation. The Byrd Rule is not in the Constitution. It was not passed in the Code of Federal Regulations after public notice in the Federal Register, invitations for comments and feedback, and agency hearings. Rather, the Senate simply adopted the thing, the brain-child of West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd. And here is what is particularly striking during the Harvey Weinstein Era about the impact of this archaic rule stemming from the Byrd brain:
Byrd in his earlier days was a worse slime and more wretchedly vile than was anyone else who ever sat in the United States Senate. He was as close as any U.S. Senator ever came to having been a Nazi. He was the unanimously elected Exalted Cyclops of his Ku Klux Klan coven. For those among recent American college graduates who have not studied American history, it is good to remember that the KKK burned crosses on the lawns of African Americans, other immigrants, and Catholics. The Ku Klux Klan lynched African Americans. When he was way old enough to know right from wrong — when he was as old as were some of the people now being permanently expunged from American society for wrongful sexual assaults and batteries they perpetrated at that same age — Robert Byrd was leading a group that burned crosses on lawns and that lynched blacks, kidnapping them and hanging them to die on trees. That never stopped the Democrats from honoring him as one of their clan, revering him, idolizing him, and ensconcing the Byrd Rule in Senate lore.
In an era when we are crashing down monuments, this most hateful and despicable of White Supremacists — the quintessential Democrat racist, so emblematic of America’s slavery party that found itself warring against Abraham Lincoln and his political progeny for a century down through Woodrow Wilson, J. William Fulbright, George Wallace, and Lester Maddox — should be expunged, and his Byrd Rule should be expunged with him, burned in a white robe and matching hood. If Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Louis C.K. are being relegated to dust bins, it seems time to expunge Byrd and his rule.
“…memorial service for Sen. Robert C. Byrd at the State Capitol in Charleston, W.Va., July 2, 2010” (Wikimedia Commons)