Letters to the Editor

Letters: The Wisdom of Dylan

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Thank you, Philip N. Meyer, for your wonderful article, “Dylan’s Songs,April. I had more than a passing interest in your fine piece, as I was essentially weaned on Bob Dylan’s music. My dad went to see Dylan at the Gaslight Café in Greenwich Village with his then-girlfriend—now my mom—back in the early ’60s, and Dylan’s music and concerts have been part of our family since. I’ve been known to quote a few of the more famous Dylan one-liners in my courtroom: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows” may be one of my favorites. Another favorite: “When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose,” which is, of course, from “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Hon. Timothy S. Driscoll
Mineola, New York

INTERPRETING TEXTUALISM

In “It Means What It Says,April, Bryan Garner endorses California’s interpretation of the phrase “10 years of age or younger” to include an individual a month short of her 11th birthday. That is just nonsense. Of course, courts must interpret statutes according to common meaning, but the fact that a child a month before her 11th birthday says, “I’m 10,” is irrelevant because it arises in the wrong context. In a social setting, the question, “How old are you?” is ordinarily understood to be asking for an answer only in whole years, so the common convention is to round to the next lowest whole number, though one might just as easily say, “6 years and 8 months,” or “I’ll be 65 in a month.” But in a statute or a legal document, more precision is required, and the accepted smallest unit of time—unless otherwise specified or required in light of the statute’s purpose—is the calendar day, even with respect to time periods expressed in terms of whole years. A person is “10 years of age or younger” through his 10th birthday and not a day longer. This is not the same as “under 11 full years of age.” At worst, it is ambiguous, requiring that the rule of lenity be applied. If Mr. Garner or the justices in California have any doubt about that, let them borrow money for 10 years and see what happens if they insist that they’re entitled to keep it for an extra 364 days. 

Robert Kantowitz
Lawrence, New York

VOTING RIGHTS—and WRONGS

The recent Georgia senator’s race was the backdrop for “Keeping It Fair,March,  on the role of lawyers to “get the vote right” through litigation on Election Day and in recounts. While there was no discussion of what lawsuits were brought or their results, the underlying theme was that “we put impediments in the way of seniors and the poor in registration and voting.” 

I respectfully disagree, as this general statement about unidentified impediments questions the motivation behind provisions adopted to frustrate the commission of the crime of illegal voting. Not too long ago, provisions requiring the production of a valid picture ID at voting precincts were claimed to be aimed at suppressing the votes of seniors and minorities by creating a burdensome form of proof of identity and residency. However, after serving as a poll watcher in 2018, I can report that I did not see, and subsequently have not read of, voters being denied the opportunity to vote due to an inability to obtain and produce a valid picture ID. It is time to acknowledge that this and other successful protections against illegal voting are working to protect the integrity of the ballot box without placing a burden on lawful voters.

Warren Belmar
Palm Beach, Florida


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