This is no time to debate the drinking age

A bunch of 19-year-olds drinking beer at a party wouldn’t normally be newsworthy, but that changes when the police get involved and the party happened at a public figure’s house:

The general counsel for Iowa’s largest hospital system was charged with interference with official acts after Polk County sheriff’s deputies broke up an alcohol party involving seven 19-year-olds at the executive’s Grimes home early Sunday.

Dennis Drake, 57, is the husband of Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus. […]

The misdemeanor charge accuses him of failing to obey a deputy’s commands.

It’s not clear who purchased the beer for the 19-year-olds or whether Ternus was home during the party.

John Deeth thinks the drinking age should be 18 and Drake is getting a bum rap:

[Drake] was positioned near the driveway at 1:30 AM to make sure no one drove home. Assuming that Her Honor was also in the parental loop (police reports don’t indicate if she was home or not), that means two high-end lawyers looked at the situation and felt that the best thing to do was to let these young ADULTS have a drink or six at home and make sure they didn’t drive.

Looks like the only thing anyone did that was WRONG was to be loud and obnoxious and annoy the neighbors–a temporary injury of lost sleep that’s far less than would could have happened if Ternus and Drake had been less responsible.

This event is an opportunity Ternus should take to offer her opinion on the law. Not on the constitutionality of the law, but on the efficacy, the justice, the effectiveness of the law. Now, I’m just a dumb blogger, not a smart lawyer or nuthin’, so I don’t know what the guidelines are. But from my perspective I’d love to hear Ternus say, “My son and husband broke the law, but it’s a really bad law.”

It’s good that Drake was preventing intoxicated 19-year-olds from driving, but I couldn’t disagree more with Deeth’s advice for Ternus.

My inner wonk would love to hear a policy debate between public-health experts, who might cite benefits of keeping the drinking age where it is, and people like Deeth who figure, kids can vote, get married and go off to fight in a war at 18–why not let them have a beer?

But the last thing we need is for the Chief Justice to start questioning the drinking age because her husband and son got in trouble. Ever since the Iowa Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, social conservatives have been plotting their campaign against Ternus and her two colleagues up for retention in November 2010. They will be looking for any excuse to claim Ternus disrespects Iowa laws. Drake should get this matter behind the family and not let it happen again.

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