Donald Trump invites world scrutiny as to just how he plans to “make America great again.” Pointing out all the flaws got him elected. But, what about law? One thing is for sure: Americans are waking up to a nightmare.
Flaws in the Laws
The machine designed to fix all the other machines in American society is itself the most broken. It’s not just a bad lawyer here and there. It is the whole legal system that is corrupt, inefficient, unnecessarily contentious and expensive, held almost inexorably so.
President James Madison once said, “The purpose of the law is to prevent the rich from always getting their way.” He was an idealistic revolutionary. They used to talk like that. Not today, obviously.
Money pays for lobbyists and campaigns, including governors who then appoint the judges. In court, the wealthy party often wins by attrition. Our insurance companies spend fortunes to crush valid claims, and then raise everyone’s rates because of the cost of litigation. Do they get away with that? Every day.
Our Supreme Court decreed that judges have “absolute immunity.” What does that mean? If a judge intentionally violates the law [i.e. not an innocent mistake], they suffer no adverse consequences, at all. Even police only have “conditional immunity,” shielding innocent mistakes.
Tolkien’s ring made the wearer invisible, hence no accountability: absolute immunity. We have no problem seeing the potential evil in a fantasy, but then forget all about that when we add a black robe in reality.
Litigation is another form of jousting, where the one who “wins” was “right,” even if they weren’t. We get drama-rama, not justice. We could instead sift out what is disputed and calmly evaluate the law and facts, narrowing it to a few things.
Lawyers make their money by protracted litigation, exploiting hostility, exacerbating conflict, and tactics. Why change?
Lawyers love lawyer jokes. We know how we are. We just can’t help it. As jousters, our role is to win the game. No matter what. We piously call it by the oxymoron “legal ethics.”
A “good” lawyer can win a case that she should have lost, in essence undermining justice, to be highly rewarded for it. If she “did the right thing” which caused her client to lose, she could be fired, disbarred and sued for malpractice.
What could be wrong with a system like that?
Tough on Crime
American inner city kids get a deplorable education, have poor job opportunities, and dysfunctional, impoverished families. Give a kid nothing to lose, and crime can become a way of life. Rather than resolve poverty, we “get tough on crime.” It gets votes.
The vast majority of cases are “plea bargained,” where a prosecutor threatens harsher charges and jail time unless the kid “freely” admits to the charges, guilty or not. Who wouldn’t? The cost to jail the kid is more than a luxury hotel he wouldn’t want to escape. Who would? In prison, he learns new criminal techniques to employ later.
So, law gets used as a tool of oppression, more expensively than employing the kid to have something to lose and pay taxes. When your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, as Maslow said.
Hypocrisy and irony are alive and well in law. Even the media perpetuate the myth that justice is done, except for a few scoundrels. Awesome buildings and courtrooms, extreme formality and deference, and other trappings of Justice disguise the corruption of the courts from the judges to the clerks.
Dispute resolution is transmogrified into a game that takes on a life of its own. Political, medical and social issues incongruous to the legal process become ensnared in its web and manipulated with disastrous results.
The question is whether the questioning comes into question. It looks like we have blindly overlooked the oversight of the short-sighted overseers. Wake up.
There’s more, but the point is that we have all lost our way, and law is simply a glaring example. We can’t simply trust those in power to look out for our interests. They have their own agenda, right?
If we allow ourselves to be materialistically co-opted, we become a small cog on a very small wheel that’s spinning inside the machine. We may awaken to a nightmare, but it’s one we can restore to our dreams.