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CITING “FAILURE TO PROTECT“
by Sharon Rondeau
(Dec. 29, 2012) — The parents of a six-year-old who survived an onslaught of bullets on December 14 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School by pretending to be dead have hired an attorney who has asked the state of Connecticut for permission to sue it for $1,000,000.
The suit claims that the child suffered “emotional and psychological trauma and injury, the nature and extent of which are yet to be determined” and cites “school security” rather than money as its objective. “The answer is about protecting the kids,” Atty. Irving Pinsky is quoted as having said.
The child was reportedly the first to leave the building after the attack.
States and the federal government are routinely protected by the “common law” doctrine of “sovereign immunity.” In 2007, the concept of sovereign immunity was upheld by the Connecticut Supreme Court after a parent was injured on school property after she retrieved her child from an after-school activity which was deemed voluntary, even though the school carried liability insurance.
However, a Connecticut attorney identifies a “distinction between sovereign immunity and governmental immunity” and states that municipalities are not protected by the doctrine. A legal dictionary states that “As of 2003, most states had waived their immunity in various degrees at both the state and local government levels. Generally, state supreme courts first abolished immunity via judicial decisions; later, legislative measures were enacted at the state and local level to accept liability for torts committed by civil servants in the performance of government functions. The law varied by state and locality, however.”
Individuals have skirted the sovereign immunity doctrine by naming individuals as defendants rather than the state itself.
The Hartford Courant reports that the family’s attorney has petitioned J. Paul Vance, Jr., Claims Commissioner for the state of Connecticut, for permission to sue the state. Vance was appointed by Gov. Dannel Malloy and is paid $114,000 annually. The website of the Claims Commissioner states:
The state, unlike most of its citizens, is immune from liability and from suit. Without its consent, the state cannot be held liable in a legal action for any damage or injury it may cause or for the cost of any good, service or benefit it may have received.
In most other cases where there is no legal or administrative remedy available, a person claiming to be injured or damaged as a result of state action must pursue a claim through the Office of the Claims Commissioner (OCC). The legislation implementing this process is set forth in Chapter 53 of the General Statutes. Those provisions define the duties and jurisdiction of the Claims Commissioner, who is appointed by the Governor with approval of the General Assembly, and has the duty to decide when it is “just and equitable” to waive the sovereign immunity of the state.
The process of “filing a claim” includes eight steps, including a $50 fee for claims exceeding $5,000.
The spokesman for the Connecticut State Police is Lt. J. Paul Vance, who is presumably the Claims Commissioner’s father. The Connecticut State Police have not yet identified witnesses injured during the attack, although The Connecticut Post has identified two.
Following the attack purportedly by a lone gunman who crashed his way through a door to a hallway and two classrooms on December 14, a group calling itself “Newtown United” formed to “drive national efforts to turn the tide on gun violence. We are dedicated to ensuring the senseless act of violence that occurred in Newtown is never repeated.” Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal is pictured at the first meeting.
Blumenthal opposes placing armed guards in Connecticut schools, instead preferring to introduce legislation to ban assault weapons. The Connecticut congressional delegation passed a resolution about the massacre on December 17.
Senator-Elect Chris Murphy, in whose congressional district Newtown is located, appeared with Blumenthal on ABC News with George Stephanopolous, and both have rejected National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre’s suggestion that armed security guards be placed in schools and additional safety measures described as a “cordon of protection” to be implemented in school buildings.
A parent of a surviving child asked LaPierre to “return this country their kids” by advocating for stricter gun laws. The left-wing media have demonized LaPierre after he stated that “26 little kids” were killed when the total number of schoolchildren and staff was 26. The Daily Beast provides extensive coverage of Obama and has disparaged those who have presented alternative theories as to why the Sandy Hook shooting occurred. The publication has not seriously probed the declaration of forgery of Obama’s birth certificate and Selective Service registration card by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
LaPierre has been vilified by many media outlets and bloggers after giving a press conference on December 21 during which he stated that we must “face the truth” about gun-free school zones. LaPierre stated that the fact that security is provided at office buildings, courthouses, sports stadiums, congressional offices and airports but not in schools to protect children “must change.”
The NRA provides training to certify law enforcement officers in firearms use and competency. In 1988, the organization began an educational program for schoolchildren which instructs them what to do if they see a gun. “The NRA is committed to helping keep America’s young children safe,” it says on its “Eddie Eagle” page.
While politicians have blasted LaPierre for suggesting that armed guards be employed in schools, their own children and grandchildren attend such schools. NBC’s David Gregory has excoriated LaPierre and also sends his children to the exclusive Sidwell Friends School. On a recent edition of “Meet the Press,” Gregory displayed a magazine clip which exceeded the legal capacity in the District of Columbia, and the incident is reportedly under investigation. Gregory had been interviewing LaPierre at the time.
Obama and Biden intend to push for “gun control” following the Christmas break to enact “real reforms.” The children of both attend Sidwell Friends. On January 3 and 4, several lawsuits are scheduled to be heard or conferenced to address questions about Obama’s eligibility, apparent Connecticut Social Security number, and birth certificates which have been declared forgeries.
Critics of LaPierre’s proposal claim that armed security guards are ineffective because the one guard at Columbine High School was not able to stop the killings committed by two students in April 1999.
On Thursday, more than 200 Utah teachers were instructed on firearms use in the event of a school emergency. Utah is among several states which already allow firearms on school property.
A school in Chicago, which has a higher incidence of gun violence than Los Angeles and New York, has a multi-tiered security system which cost about $175,000 but which the school superintendent says is “all worth it.”
Since the killings, various fundraisers have been held, donations made, with hundreds of toys distributed prior to Christmas. Newtown officials have asked that further gifts be suspended as various funds and memorials are established.
Written tributes to those lost can be read here.