Justice System Broken?
People ask me is the American justice system broken? I do not think it is broken but it sure is bashed up. And I blame it on the Judges.
You see, judges are the stewards of the justice system. And for the most part they are doing a poor job. Judges were conceptualized to be impartial arbiters between litigants. Too many have abdicated this responsibility.
Judges Not Always Impartial
Sometimes those litigants were involved in civil cases and sometimes in criminal cases. In my experience judges are not universally impartial. In the criminal field they are less than impartial. They often side with the government and against the accused. To make it even worse, it is not always subtle.
There are a lot of reasons for that. One is they are government employees. They see themselves coming and going each day with the prosecutors as they come to their offices in a common courthouse. They form a sort of collegiality. It is a familiarity based on the frequent ride together on the elevator.
Disadvantaged from the Start
On the other hand the criminal defense attorneys are seen as outsiders. They do not interact as frequently with the judges and therefore, in a very sublime way, are at a disadvantage from the start.
No Street Smarts
Another reason for the disparity in treatment by judges suffered by criminal litigants is that so many judges come to the bench with no real street-life experience.
Think about a young lawyer. He or she is usually a person who has made good grades in school and had little or no disciplinary problems as a youth. Remember, to be admitted to the bar one has to pass a background and ethics investigation.
Now that reasonably sheltered person gets a job in a prosecutor’s office, a law firm or goes into practice for themselves. Yes, I left out public defenders. They do not frequently go on to become judges. There may be all sorts of reasons for that. But that is for another blog post.
The short version of the story is that they never get to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with people who are accused of committing crimes. They have a narrow view of anyone accused of committing a crime. They bare considered to be “criminals” even before they are ever convicted.
That is just not how the system should work. That is where I think the judges in so many courts have abandoned their duties of impartiality.
I like to say that I represent good people who are in bad situations. Yes, some of them have done some horrible things. Others have done some really stupid things. Some have just made some bad decisions. But they are all human beings who were put here on this earth the very same way you and I were. They are people who deserve a voice. They are people who deserve a proper and vigorous defense in our courts. And they are people who, according to the law and good moral principles, should be given the benefit of the doubt. It raises the sincere question is the justice system broken?
Not Without Sin
I see too many judges look down from the bench at criminal defendants with a look of superiority that is not deserved. I have known quite a few judges in my life. I have yet to meet one without a sin of their own.
If you are a judge and are reading this I hope that you will take a moment and ask yourself if your behavior to the criminal defendants in your courtroom is truly fair and impartial. Ask yourself if you really are giving the benefit of the doubt to each defendant. Are you living up to the idea that no person be deprived of his or her liberty with being afforded every right and privilege they are entitled to under our laws?
Judges are the stewards of the justice system. Is the justice system broken? If it is broken the blame lies with the judges, not the people.