Can we please stop trying to use the law to ensure that every situation has the outcome that we want on the time frame that we’d prefer? Some processes are best left out of the direct, immediate dictation of legislators trying to correct something that happened in the past.
This problem is all over the place, all the time, but it comes to mind today with this news out of Providence, reported by WPRI’s Dan McGowan:
If this policy were already in place, former Providence City Council President Luis Aponte would have been forced to resign his leadership position immediately following his May 10 indictment.
That’s the pitch from Councilman Sam Zurier, who’s put forward a proposal to amend the city’s code of ethics to require any councilor indicated on a felony “directly related to his or her employment’ to step down from leadership positions and subcommittees. It will get a public hearing Tuesday evening at 5:30 in City Hall.
Zurier’s motivation is that it took political pressure for Aponte to resign his presidency, and it wasn’t a sure thing that he would do so. That should be how we want such issues to be resolved.
If the removal from leadership becomes an instant consequence of indictment, prosecutors would have huge power to bring about political outcomes. Perhaps we trust the people who have such power right now, but the same could be said of city council leaders as a general proposition.
The system worked in this case. People made a case (and a scene) for Aponte’s resignation, and he wasn’t able to mount an adequate defense of himself. If the indictment were corrupt or superfluous, he would have been able to push back against it and hold on to his role.
There are reasons we consider folks innocent until proven guilty, and one of them is that we don’t want to empower those who can bring charges to produce binding consequences without due process of the law. We forget that at our own peril.