Paul Jenkins: State right to stand for due process; Dougherty right on comments decision

CommentSeptember 14, 2013 

Listening to the Left fulminate about the Parnell administration's joining a challenge of the Minto tribal court's jurisdiction in a parental rights case involving a man convicted of kidnapping and brutally beating his girlfriend and mother of his children is a lesson in political hyperbole.

Detractors would have you believe the intervention is proof positive Alaska would do anything to crush tribal authority and quash the Native vote. Anything for a campaign issue, I suppose.

In reality, the messy, complicated Minto case before the Supreme Court has little to do with Edward Parks or whether he is a good guy or should ever have been a parent. It has little to do with his girlfriend. It is about whether the tribal court in Minto, a tiny village west of Fairbanks, can strip him of his rights to one of his daughters and approve her adoption by members of her mother's family. That would seem a question for state courts. Parks, it is important to note, is not from Minto but from another of the state's 200 or so village tribes. The case also is about due process, about whether the Minto court can deny Parks' lawyer a chance to speak for him.

Many argue Parks is not a nice man -- he is not; that he has a history of violence against his daughter's mother -- he does; that the state should respect the Minto decision to protect the child and back off -- it should not.

You must wonder: When did acceptance of jurisdictional overreach and denial of due process based on lousy personal attributes become a legal standard? When did the ends come to justify the means in court? What if that were applied in state or federal courtrooms? "Your honor, we will be ignoring the Constitution today because the defendant is a violent miscreant and it would be best for everybody if we won."

It would be convenient, I suppose, to simply ignore the legal niceties. After all, the Minto decision protected the little girl, the Left quickly points out, but what about next time? Which cases will we ignore? I'm unsure any of us would be terribly comfortable in a state free to pick and choose which constitutional principle to honor.

The Left gets it; that whatever a tribal court can do to Parks it can do to anyone; that the state is right to stand up for all Alaskans' constitutional rights. The phony outcry is a transparent gambit to gin up campaign fodder. A newspaper headline sets the tone, "In challenging tribal court, state backs man convicted of beating his wife." Gubernatorial hopefuls Bill Walker and Hollis French leaped to grandstand on the issue. Good grief.

Alaska was right to vigorously prosecute Parks criminally for attacking his girlfriend -- we really should institute public flogging -- and in intervening civilly because the questions are large enough to affect all Alaskans.

Politics or no.


Imagine my surprise when, after all these long years, Patrick Dougherty -- an arch- enemy in the Newspaper Wars and somebody I seldom agreed with, about anything, ever -- out of the blue started making eminent good sense.

As this newspaper's editor, he announced last week that too often the comment sections following columns or stories "devolve into tedious and repetitious name-calling," likening them to a sometimes "public exercise of primal scream therapy." He was being kind.

Anonymous commenters are cowards, unafraid to say anything that pops into their pointy little heads so long as they cannot be identified. Their favorite dodges? "Oh, I might get fired," or, "Somebody might come to my door." Blah. Blah. They overvalue their insights. Too often their comments are merely dimwitted, malignant and off point.

To fix that, Dougherty said the paper -- as others have done -- will start requiring commenters to log in using a Facebook account. It is a start, I suppose, and hopefully will reduce anonymous comments, although Dougherty admits it is not a perfect solution. I do not have much hope, but he has the right idea. People afraid to sign their names will find a way to hide.

Predictably, the back-biters who relish the dank anonymity under their rocks took Dougherty's news badly.

They probably cannot even appreciate the delicious irony.


Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com.

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