I recently watched the 1940s movie The Ox-Bow Incident based on a novel by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. The story is about a rush to judgment in the Old West. It came to mind when I read the headline in the Sacramento Bee about the #MeToo Rally in that city: ‘Known abuser’ Kavanaugh cannot be confirmed, #MeToo supporters say at California Capitol.

It was not the idea of the rally, or that participants at the rally say that they believed Judge Kavanaugh’s accusers about sexual abuse that brought the Old West story to mind. It was the emphasis on the phrase known abuser used by rally participants referring to Kavanaugh that was jarring.

Due process to protect against a rush to judgment is an important judicious value that appears to be lost in the frenzy of these politicized times.

The Ox-Bow Incident is the story of men accused of murder and cattle rustling in 1885 Nevada. They are summarily hanged by a posse without a fair and proper examining of the case, despite efforts by some characters to bring them back for trial. In the end, it is revealed that there was no murder and that others did the rustling.

Women at the rally say they believe the accusers, Dr. Christine Ford and Deborah Ramirez. They have a right to believe them, they have a right to protest and rally. People in the #MeToo Movement are rightly outraged by predatory and abusive behavior. Judge Kavanugh’s accusers should be heard. Investigate the situation, if possible.

Linking the Ox-Bow Incident to the current outcry does not mean that Kavanaugh is innocent of the accusations. It means take the lesson of the Old West story that there must be a fair hearing before judgment is passed.

This appeal is not a defense of Kavanaugh nor is it taking a position on the politics of the moment in this hot, politicized environment. Hear out Kavanaugh’s accusers, investigate the situation, and reject him if that conclusion is called for.

But we are losing a precious protection and sense of civil order if we decide that someone is a known abuser even before a hearing and sworn testimony is given.

The Ox-Bow Incident and the lessons it provides were once taught in schools. In 1998, the film version, a Best Picture Academy Award nominee starring Henry Fonda, was selected by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Perhaps the story should be taught in schools again.