You Be The Judge-How Would You Rule?

Is a pencil a weapon under the law?
That is the question that a Commonwealth Court had to decide recently in a school law case.
The law says that a student shall not possess handle or transmit a weapon while on any school property.
A weapon shall include a knife, cutting instrument, or any other instrument capable of inflicting serious bodily injury.

Okay that’s the law and here are the basic facts to apply to the law.
A 14-year-old girl at at a Pittsburgh city school stabbed a boy student in the neck with a pencil several times based on some misunderstanding.
The question then became was the girls suspension for a full year from school valid or not?
And if it was valid would the suspension stay on her permanent record?

So let’s assume YOU are a judge and have to decide this issue. How do you decide?

The attorney for one side argues stabbing someone several times in the neck with a pencil is a weapon capable of inflicting serious bodily injury.
If you are on the other side as the attorney you have to ask the court to use its commonsense and the everyday usage of what a pencil is designed for in making your decision.
A pencil is designed to write information on paper primarily. It is NOT a weapon in the traditional sense like a gun,brass knuckle or a knife is considered.

This was probably a pretty close case. You can see really the arguments on both sides of the issue.
That’s what in essence the Courts are all about.

In the end the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court decided that the possession of a pencil is not the equivalent of a possession of a weapon.
Therefore the student did not violate the law.

That means the students record was cleared of the year-long suspension.

The Court seemed to take a commonsense view of what a weapon is and what a pencil is used for.
If it had ruled that a pencil is a weapon then what about a plastic pen? Wouldn’t that also qualify as a weapon?
Where would it end?

This case was reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week.
I wanted to comment on it to bring home a point.

That is what Courts are called upon to decide every day.
How do you interpret the law to the facts of a particular situation?
Most Courts will review in great detail the law in a particular area and then apply the facts to the law to come up with the decision that is consistent with the law and prior cases dealing with this issue.

Pittsburgh school attorney and auto accident attorney Bernie Tully thinks it’s pretty clear from this decision how the law can be applied to the facts in two completely different ways.

I hope this gives you some understanding of how Court grapple with common everyday problems that society faces.
And I also hope that it gives you newfound respect for the Judiciary.

I am specifically referring to judges in that regard.

Society owes them a huge debt of thanks for their work.

How about those incredible Pittsburgh Penguins?

Did they come game ready that seventh game against the Caps?

Despite being banged up and having many players injured, the Pens rose to the occasion and won the series!

Bring on Ottawa!

Your attorney

Bernie Tully