In Brief— An examination of America’s so-called “justice” system instead of the comfortable myths that we live with. [Written in December 2016-January 2017.]
Justice Ain’t Just—
Hippity-hop, the Easter Bunny scurries about hiding eggs. A tiny fairy hides a shiny dime under the pillow in exchange for a tooth. A bearded fat man clad in red slides down the chimney to place presents under the Christmas tree. A loving deity rewards good folk and punishes the bad. These are all myths. All are injurious whether directed at children or adults. Now we’ll look at the myth that the American system of justice delivers only justice.
J.R.R. Tolkein wrote of a ring that rules them all. I’ll write of a fact that rules humanity: HUMAN NATURE rules them all.
We are all animals. We humans like to think of ourselves as smart and above them all, but we aren’t as smart as we think we are. Fact is some animals believed to be lower on the intelligence scale are smarter than we humans are.
Humans are smart, ignorant, good, bad, liberal, authoritarian, lazy, energetic, compassionate, stingy, brave, fearful, peaceable, warlike, partisan, generous, greedy, individualistic, clannish, informed, naïve, etc. Look around at the world, think of a descriptive adjective and realize that humans are simply animals who have all those characteristics, some with more predominating adjectives, some with less. In short, what we see is human nature.
Although you may be bored by this repetition, from time to time, I use the word “ignorant” meaning lacking in knowledge. By contrast, I occasionally use the word “stupid.” Stupidity is willful ignorance. Someone who deliberately choses not to learn is stupid.
America’s “Justice” System—
Atop America’s justice system is the Supreme Court. Under normal circumstances, the Supreme Court is composed of nine justices. These men and women are humans who are subject to many of the same influences as any educated person. All have biases that lead them to be conservative, centrist or liberal in outlook. Unfortunately, these biases can be partisan, even naïve.
A good example of partisanship or naïveté can be found in the Citizens United case where the conservatives ruled essentially that money and rich donors are entitled to equal standing with all of us. Put simply, money can buy a case’s outcome.
Thus, poor folks are at a decided disadvantage when their opponents have barrels of cash to spend on getting the outcome the rich wish. This is partisan and possibly even naïve.
In twenty states, judges are effectively partisan politicians because they periodically have to run for office rather than holding lifetime positions. You can see that both lifetime tenure and partisan elections have drawbacks, but once money enters the picture, lifetime tenure is the lesser of evils. Human Nature arises here as each side wants to win and have his/her own case favored.
At the federal level, the dominant party gets to appoint judges to empty positions that will reflect the party’s philosophy, and those judges have lifetime tenure. Age and judicial philosophy are paramount here. Such judges will often hear cases before the Supreme Court has a chance. In many situations, a case will be permanently decided at this lower level because the Supreme Court doesn’t want to hear the case for one reason or anther.
As the unpredictable and seemingly destructive if not autocratic Trump administration addresses vacancies, a number of these lower federal courts will have a conservative judge appointed. Such judges will set the tone until they retire or die. Once again, Human Nature will rule. Reality!
Local “Justice” Ain’t Just Either—
Crowded local courts handle most cases. I have written about my experiences as a defense lawyer. In these courts, people of color are too often the defendants. Guilty or innocent, because of the potential for lost jobs or evictions, it’s often easier to take the prosecutor’s plea bargain and plead guilty instead of running the risk of conviction. All lawyers, prosecutors, private or public defenders, are complicit in this travesty.
Cops routinely commit perjury with impunity while the judges are aware of their perjury. Public defenders are overworked and, as noted, complicit in the plea bargain offered by the prosecution. Defendants often have to pay fines and court costs or go to jail. Who says there’s no such thing as debtor’s prison? I could go on, but you get the picture. Justice? There’s rarely justice in America. And it’s assuredly not going to get better under the Trump administration. Reality!
Although this seems pessimistic, it’s a realistic look at the “justice” system in America. America is said to be an exceptional democracy. It is neither exceptional nor a democracy. It’s a plutocratic oligarchy that favors the rich while all those who are without financial comfort are being duped. What we find is a kakistocracy. That’s reality.
Human nature says you’ll probably not even know about this criminal situation. So now that you know, what are you going to do about it?
The Weekly Sampler—
As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.
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