I missed the town meeting in Bethany tonight, where residents once again debated whether to permit condominium development. But a friend was there, and she read a letter from me to the town's Planning and Zoning Commission. I also got text message reports from those in attendance.
It turns out the Green Haven supporters took a few pot shots at me. That's fine. Both my feelings remain intact. Besides, I wasn't there to defend my position; I was an easy target. I brought all that on myself. I get it.
But one remark struck me as particularly stupid, and so I call the speaker out here.
When I raised concerns about the precedent-setting effect of allowing the first condominium development in town, one speaker, who reported that she is a lawyer, had the following to say. "This is about affordable housing. Precedent plays no role. Pattis doesn't know what he's talking about. He's just a criminal defense lawyer." (I can see the Greensters nodding in unctuous approval.0
Now I don't know who this lawyer is, or if, in fact, she is a lawyer. I do know that if she is admitted to the bar, it must have been in error. Precedent does matter. Similarly situated people treated differently by a public body can and will raise equal protection claims under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
I am surprised the lawyer for Green Haven didn't put a sock in this idiot's mouth. He will no doubt recall the time I faced two of his partners in a civil rights claim arising under the Fourteenth Amendment. His partners were authorized to offer a settlement of $200,000 during trial. We told them to go pound sand. When the jury returned a verdict of $3.1 million for a civil rights violation, Shipman and Goodwin wasn't sitting very tall in the saddle. I'm grateful for that verdict. The proceeds helped make possible the purchase of our home in Bethany.
In fact, civil rights claims have been a large part of my practice for decades, and I've appeared frequently in federal trial and appellate courts to advance them. I've also been to the United States Supreme Court. So although I do practice criminal law, it's not all I do. I also sue folks represented by the kind of idiot who spoke up in Bethany. I pity the woman's clients.