California Supreme Court rules that a law that’s impossible to comply with still can be constitutional
Franz Kafka has been reincarnated, and apparently is sitting on the Supreme Court of the State of California. How else to explain the way that the progressive mindset continues to amaze in the Great State of California?
The legislature of the Golden State a decade ago passed a law that, in the words of Scott Schakford of Reason:
…demanded gun manufacturers implement microstamping technology that would imprint identifying information on bullets as they were shot from semi-automatic weapons. Gun manufacturers say the technology hasn't advanced enough to comply with the law. Smith & Wesson announced in 2014 that they would be pulling some guns from the market in California rather than complying with the law (a cynic might theorize that this is the law's actual intent).
California’s Supremes last week ruled that it is constitutional to maintain a law that it is impossible to comply with. Kafka's spirit lives!
The National Shooting Sports Foundation sued to block the law. California's Civil Code contains a section that simply reads, "The law never requires impossibilities." So the question the state's Supreme Court was addressing was whether the courts can invalidate this law because it is impossible for people to comply with it.
Not only did the California Supreme Court rule that it cannot invalidate the law, but it ruled so unanimously. To be clear: The court does not suggest that people can face punishment for being unable to comply with impossible laws. Instead, the court says, "impossibility can occasionally excuse noncompliance with a statute, but in such circumstances, the excusal constitutes an interpretation of the statute in accordance with the Legislature's intent, not an invalidation of the law." Essentially, it's not unconstitutional to pass impossible laws, but the courts can exempt people from the consequences of those laws without overturning the laws themselves.
So, the State of California can drag people into court, force them to spend God only knows how much money on lawyers, and then hope that the sheer impossibility of complying with the law results on a not guilty verdict.
Maybe it is not Kafka who wrote about this situation, but rather Charles Dickens, whose character Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist pronounced, “The law is an ass.”