Bear Spray; Whatcom Small Claims Judg...

Bear Spray; Whatcom Small Claims Judge Decision

Posted in the Bellingham Forum

Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#1 Feb 16, 2012
After the Attorney General's Office refused to mediate on the Consumer Protection Act issue of REI selling bear spray for bear attacks when it will quite likely not stop a bear, the Ag referred the matter to Small Claims. That was appx. four months ago. Finally had the Small Claims case heard today--February 16, 2012--and Judge Elich immediately stated Small Claims is not the proper venue for the case to be heard; that he cannot force REI to change the label on the Counter Assault bear spray they sell in order to provide suffcient warning to the consumer that it will quite likely not be enough to stop a bear in an attack. Elich stated only District Court could do that.

I responded that the AG's office misinformed me by referring the case to Small Claims, and that District Court is not an option as I'm homeless and Legal Aid does not take Consumer Protection Act cases.

The case was presented; I cited the Anchorage Daily News article of our bear attack showing we were lucky to have survived relying on pepper spray alone ('A Can of Spray', A Lot of Luck'; 9/29/96). I also cited the ADN follow up article--'Pepper Spray? Bad Bet'--quoting wildlife biologists explaining pepper spray does not work on black bears due to "a unique protective mucous coating".

Judge Elich ruled that was not enough to prove unethical business practice and a violation of the Consumer Protection Act.

Could there have been better proof? Of course not. Judge Elich rendered a false decision.

I returned to the Attorney general's office; they claim the matter does not warrant priority for them. I replied it is a life and death Consumer Protection Act issue. They again declined to take action. So I replied if someone does die due to relying on pepper spray in a bear attack and it not being enough to stop the bear, then that will henceforth be due to Attorney General Office negligence (and the unjust decision rendered by Judge Elich).


BTW, I have also been outspoken at City and Council meetings over the past three years about the need for much stricter drunk driving laws. Here's is what comes up online about Judge Elich:

Setback for DUI cases - Ruling excludes breath-test evidence

John Stark, The Bellingham Herald
Thursday, August 21, 2003

Whatcom County District Court Judges Ira Uhrig and Matthew Elich ruled Wednesday that breath-test evidence in dozens of drunken-driving cases will have to be thrown out.

The judges made their ruling after hearing arguments from local defense attorneys who joined counterparts across the state in challenging the scientific procedures used to prove the accuracy of the machines that measure blood-alcohol levels by analyzing breath samples.

The ruling could make it more difficult for prosecutors to win convictions on arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol between April 2001 and late last June in unincorporated Whatcom County. Bellingham DUI cases are heard in Municipal Court, and that court has yet to rule on similar defense motions challenging breath-test procedures there. Lynden, Ferndale, Blaine, Everson and Sumas also have their own municipal courts that have not considered the issue.

Etc.(the rest of the article goes on but in my opinion fails to prove breathalyzers are unreliable)

So Judge Elich not only muffed the pepper spray case, but has made it easier for drunk drivers (and the alcohol industry) to get away with the drunk driving carnage our society accepts as a necessary evil when in fact it is completely unnecessary.


I am profoundly disappointed in experiencing Consumer Protection Act stonewall.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#2 Feb 16, 2012
I requested exemption from swearing an oath at start of small claims; Judge Elich refused. I explained the judge granted exemption last time I had a small claims case (2009?). Judge Elich still refused. I said "Okay; my convictions are not very strong about this anyhow." Here's why. When Google searching the matter akll sorts of interpretations come up. And besides that I'm not a biblical literalist. There is much question lately even if I'm ma christian at all. I think I am, but...

Here's one of the webpages about the taking of an oath:

There are many examples of and instructions for giving oaths in the Bible, but the critics place them against these two NT verses (the latter of which is likely alluding to the former):

Matthew 5:34-37 "But I say unto you, swear not at all; neither by heaven ... nor by the earth .... Neither shalt thou swear by thy head .... But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."

James 5:12 "... swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation."

Heb. 7:21 "The Lord sware and will not repent."

So are these simple "no oath" commands that contradict the rest of the Bible's oaths and instructions for them? And is God violating his own rule?

What is being condemned in the NT verses is not oath-taking per se, but flippant, casual oaths. The words "at all" in Matthew come from holos, which can mean simply, "not at all," but can also mean "commonly."

Let's look at ALL of the verses from Matthew:

Matt. 5:34-7 But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,''No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Now, who makes a serious, solemn oath on heaven, the earth, a city, or their own head? The NT is condemning people who treat oaths with contempt by making them thoughtlessly.

Keener's commentary on Matthew (192ff) explains the historical context of these passages. All ancient societies viewed oath-taking as dangerous, since they essentially called upon a deity to execute vengeance if the oath was not fulfilled. A flippant or false oath was in a real sense a blasphemy, a casual misuse of the name of God.

Somewhat paralleling the words of Jesus, the Essenes seem to have avoided oaths altogether, other than their oath of initiation. The Greek philosopher Pythagoras and others similarly taught, "let one's word carry such conviction that one need not call deities to witness." In the context of Jesus' own day, there existed a "popular abuse" of oath-taking in which surrogate objects were introduced to swear by, so as not to profane the divine name -- things like the right hand, Jerusalem, God's throne, and the head. Jesus also addresses this practice in his directive not to swear on such objects, as some thought it easier to break an oath if they swore on something inanimate rather than God.

What we therefore have here is an example of Jesus not disagreeing with the OT about oaths, but rather moving beyond the OT into an even more demanding standard that focuses on motivation rather than action (in the same manner as the "adultery in the heart" directive).

Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#3 Feb 16, 2012
As for the case, REI's position was that the EPA claims pepper spray does stop both black and brown bear attacks. I was not given opportunity for rebuttal (which is curious because I was given opportunity for rebuttal in 2009), but would have replied that U.S. wildlife officials respond with firearms whenever there is a bear attack--they don't rely solely on pepper spray. If EPA's position was true, gov't actions would reflect that. But they don't.
Bruce Deile

Seattle, WA

#4 Feb 18, 2012
Btw, the Anchorage Daily News article 'A Can of Spray, A Lot of Luck' was in the Sunday paper (9/29/96) with the front page referring to the article with a photo showing a snarling bear and the caption below it reading "Face to Face: Spray Pepper and Pray".

If a face to face encounter is not enough proof to show pepper spray failed to stop a bear in its charge, what better proof could have been provided?
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#5 Feb 22, 2012
1 student injured in Bremerton elementary school shooting

BREMERTON, Wash.- Authorities say a shooting at a Washington state elementary school appears to have left a third-grade student with a gunshot wound in her abdomen.

Police say the injured girl has been airlifted to Seattle's Harborview Medical Center and that a third-grade boy has been detained.

Bremerton police and emergency crews were dispatched to the school at around 1:30 p.m. in response to a call that a student was shot and injured by another student. Authorities say a firearm was found in a classroom.

The Bremerton Schools superintendent's office says the school was locked down after the shooting, but the lock down was lifted a short while later.
Live television news footage showed students leaving the school. Police say parents were being allowed to pick up their kids on foot.

Read more here:
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#6 Feb 29, 2012
I spoke about this at Feb. 28th City council meeting during public comment. Wore a "Pandamania" t-shirt purchased last week at Value Village. The meeting video is found online on the City page.

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