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The Unchartable Course of the Law

We like to think of the law as providing the comfort of fairness and certainty. This is a story about the uncomfortable way law is made in America and the resulting elusiveness of certainty and fairness in our law. The course this particular issue has taken through the legal system is, in microcosm, the story of the way our law works: haphazard, hesitant, meandering, often unfair, and out of the control of any individual or government body—from the Congress of the United States to the Supreme Court of the United States—fully to direct. The series of events leading to the Supreme Court decision was set in motion, unintentionally, by a prisoner, a store manager, a police officer, a corrections officer, a paraplegic seeking a driver's licence, a nurse, a security guard, and half a dozen other individuals, all unknown to each other and living in different parts of the country. Once launched, the legal controversy followed its own winding course of unexpected turns and twists. The Supreme Court tried to settle the matter twice before, only to be thwarted in its endeavor by the policeman and the corrections officer: a couple of average citizens following their own interests rather than the grand design of the law.