Jezebel shouts that the laws about abortion and the law about guns are exactly the same, then directs us to the judge’s decision stating this.
Where the judge, carefully and in detail, tells us all that the laws about abortion and guns are actually different.
This is not a display of good journalism.
The specific point here is that Jezebel says “Judge Says California Can’t Do to Guns What Texas Did to Abortion” and they follow this up with “California Democrats trolled Texas Republicans by using the same bounty hunter mechanism in a gun control bill that Texas used to ban abortion.”
This is about that law – before the Dobbs decision – where Texas said that if someone had an abortion then a bounty hunter style thing could kick in. Roe said that the state couldn’t prosecute someone for having had an abortion. But an individual could sue another individual. Right or wrong, that’s what they did.
California then claimed to use the same process about guns. The judge has now said that the California law is unconstitutional while other courts have said the Texas one is OK. That’s what Jezebel is getting at.
Except Jezebel actually links to the judgment. Where the judge goes to great lengths to explain why it is unconstitutional. The reasons are absolutely nothing at all to do with either abortion or guns. The problem is the unfair way that California allocates the lawyers’ bills.
Without getting too in the weeds there are two ways of doing this. Each side pays its own lawyers, the usual American way. This means folk will think a bit before launching a lawsuit and also think about settling early one they’re clearly going to lose. The other way is called the “British.” The loser pays both sides of law costs. This again makes people think and settle – and about whether to launch.
Texas introduced the British system into those abortion bounty hunting suits. California tried to make it that the person suing got their bills paid if they won, the person being sued never got their bills paid even if they did win. That’s unbalanced, unfair and therefore unconstitutional. As we say, nothing about abortion nor guns but about who has to pay the lawyers. California has set it up on a heads I win, tails you lose basis. That’s not a fair flip of the coin now, is it?
California didn’t copy Texas, that is, and the bit they changed is exactly what kills the bill. Well, we could think that maybe California politicians can’t use copy/paste correctly and we wouldn’t be surprised if that were true either.
But Jezebel’s claim is that the laws are the same. The judge himself is very careful in pointing out where they’re not the same and therefore why one is OK and the other isn’t.
Jezebel ranks at number 68 for media outlets in arts and entertainment in the United States. It gains some 5.8 million visits a month as a result. It’s aimed at, largely gains its readership from, progressive feminists which is fine, of course. So too is the interest in a story about abortion and guns – long of interest to feminists and progressives.
But it’s a fairly basic idea in journalism that if you’re going to report on a legal judgment try having a quick read, at least, of the legal judgment. You know, to see if the point the judge is making is exactly the opposite of the article that you want to write?
The decision here is that the California law is different from the Texas one not because abortion and guns are different but because of who has to pay the lawyers.