What is the value of an ID?

Law school was an “interesting” experience.  One of the more dynamic exercises was a direct result of the course work being taught in the “Socratic Method”.  The format was simple,  before each class you would have a list of cases that were going to be discussed.  Your job was to read each of these appellate decisions and develop an intimate knowledge of all aspects of the decision.

Typically this theater of education went something like this:

From the podium, the professor would look over his reading glasses at the sea of students arrayed in front of him.  Then glancing down at his seating chart, he would bellow out, “Mr. Lieberman, would you please state the facts in the case of Johnson v. Reading Pipe and Supply.”

I would then follow the kabuki method… shuffling papers on my desk in a vain attempt to look like I was searching for my brief… in reality, (and everyone, including the professor knew what was really taking place)… I was stalling trying to remember what the hell the facts of the case actually were.


Finally, I would begin a pathetic recitation… at least of the salient facts that I could remember.  This would be subject to constant interruption.

“Ummm… Johnson had a house on a busy street next to a commercial property, and….”

“Mr. Lieberman… would it make a difference if the street was not busy?”….

“Ummm… no sir… it would not.”

“Then please restate the facts in a more succinct manner.”

“Yes sir… Mr. Johnson owned a house on a street next to a commercial property, and..”

“Mr. Lieberman,… I know you are more intelligent then this… is it dispositive that the house was on a street?”

“No sir… I guess it would not.”

“Please restate.”

“Mr. Johnson owned a home next to a commercial property, and…”

“Mr. Lieberman,… perhaps, I gave you too much credit… would it make a difference if Mr. Johnson owned the property?”

“No sir, it would… wait… yes!  It actually would!  That is a material fact that ultimately will form a basis of the courts logic in its ruling.”

“Really?  Well, Mr. Lieberman please expand on this nugget of logic that you have discovered… How does ownership color the facts of the case?”

At this point, I would have to switch from a simple presenter to that of an advocate.  I would begin to point out aspects of the case that supported my argument.

To be honest, most of my professors simply sucked at this teaching methodology.  Their ability to intellectually joust with us was beyond their capacity.  Save one guy… my Contracts professor.

I will never forget Professor Christensen.  He was an elderly lawyer, who clearly had a love of food…  (he could stand to lose fifty or sixty pounds)… and would only ever be seen in public wearing his three piece suit with his trademark pocket watch in his vest.  The Professor had been a railroad lawyer with the Union Pacific for most of his career, and was now easing into retirement as a law professor.

And… He was brilliant.

The Socratic Method was built for this guy.  Once he “rope a doped” you into defending your position, it was “game on”.  He would then question you in a manner that led you out onto an intellectual tree limb, far enough for that metaphorical limb to ultimately come crashing down under the weight of your pathetically illogical argument.

You always came out of that class intellectually humbled… but, also a stronger logical thinker.

Listening to Tucker Carlson on my way home the other night, I was reminded of Professor Christensen.

Carlson was interviewing a lawyer that was a member of a group that had filed a lawsuit against the State of Texas claiming that their new voter ID law disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of voters.

Carlson would have none of it.

“You mean to tell me that these hundreds of thousands of Texas residents have no forms of ID?”

“Yes… studies show that….”

“Ma’am, with all do respect,… how does an individual exist in society without a form of identification?  They cannot drive, they cannot purchase things, they cannot even take advantage of government services?  You mean to tell me that there are hundreds of thousands of these shadow people living in the State of Texas?!?”

“Tucker… this is a fundamental right we are talking about!  Even if there were only one individual they must have access to the ballot box.  Nowhere in the Constitution does it say anything about ID’s being required.  To require someone to provide an ID to vote is per se Unconstitutional!”

“Ok, I understand your position.  While I simply don’t agree with the supposed aggregate numbers you’re claiming… at least, you are intellectually honest and saying that even if there were only one plaintiff here, you would still be filing this law suit.”


“I guess, I could also surmise from this that you would hold this same logic to fundamental rights in general?”

“I, ugh.. I’m not sure what you are getting at?”

“Well.. I would suppose that if an individual did not have a valid form of identification, they are still entitled to fourth amendment protections against search and seizure, and first amendment protections of free speech?”

“Of course!  As I said, the Constitution does not spell out the need for an ID card.”

“Excellent!  So when can I expect to see your group suing the ATF and State governments for their infringements on peoples’ Second Amendment rights by requiring an ID for a purchase or transfer of a firearm?”

“Ummm… we, ugh… we are only focused on voting rights.”

“Yeah… that is what I thought.”

Well done Professor Carlson… well done.