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reform legal system in US?

 
 
dov1953
 
Reply Wed 1 Oct, 2003 09:45 pm
Question It is often presumed in the US that all are equal before the law. I think it says something to that effect in the Constitution. It is equally as known that this is garbage I believe. If you're rich, an acquittal is available for a price and if you're poor, or a member of a minority, then a "fair" trial would be considered a joke if it weren't so tragic. Now, on a realistic level, Shocked , how do you think that a universally fair system could be brought about? I don't think there is anyway around the fact that the best lawyers are going to go to the more affluent clients, so how could this system be reformed. The fame and the bank account of the more talented lawyers will be maintained, no matter what, so I am at a loss as to how to reform the system, and it must be reformed someday. It is really only one major Supreme Court decision away. Call me an optimist but I think that this must come to be someday, so I hope it is a just solution. Got any ideas? Please, be serious in your suggestions.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 1,170 • Replies: 8
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Oct, 2003 04:55 am
Re: reform legal system in US?
http://www.house.gov/Constitution/Constitution.html
"All men are created equal" is in the Declaration of Independence, which is not the law of the land. The law is (among other things), the Constitution, the body of which is linked to above. There is no Constitional right to a "fair" trial; it's the right to a speedy and public trial in criminal matters. See: http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.billofrights.html#amendmentvi (all of the amendments are in this url).

Different lawyers have different abilities and different track records. This will always be so. There is no amount of $$, reform or education that will ever change this.

But recognize also that the "best lawyers" don't always win cases, even when the facts are working for them. Look at the OJ trial, with the so-called "Dream Team" of attorneys. Essentially, they all believed their own press so much that they forgot to actually put OJ at the scene of the crime. Oopsie!

In most parts of the US, attorneys are required to participate in what's called pro bono work. This is free work in various areas, for the poor. States require varying amounts of time to assure that a lawyer maintains his or her license to practice. Should more time be devoted to pro bono work? Perhaps. But recognize that many lawyers don't make a stratospheric salary. When I first got out of school, I made $21,000/year (this was Long Island, 1986). Not everyone is hauling home trunkloads of money. And pro bono work, by definition, is not paid. How much volunteer time should lawyers (with huge law school loan debts) be required to fork over? Oh, by the way, other professionals (doctors, engineers, etc.) aren't required to participate in free work for the poor in order to maintain their licensing. Should they have to? Don't the poor need doctors and carpenters and babysitters, too?
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dov1953
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Oct, 2003 11:01 pm
Idea You bring up some excellent ideas. Doesn't an amendment to the Constitution, from 1887 or so, say that no one can be compelled to work without compensation "except as required by law"? That's like saying, "go in the ocean but don't get wet". Regardless, isn't it a whats-the-word? The word is something like an idea being so much a part of the culture, that the culture would be so radically altered that the essense of the culture would be completely altered and significantly unrecognizable. As for your idea about the idea of a fair trial, this too is one of those aspects of our culture that defines it. The idea of uncompensated labor and a fair trial are two ideas that most Americans would be unable and unwilling to do without, and further, would swear on their mother's grave that these two ideas are in fact "true" elements of the American constitutional system. Are you in fact really required to do free work or is it that the pay is minimal? Again, as you say, and as I have said, the fact that the best lawyers will get the most affluent clients, is a fact of life that will never change. Yet, it remains, the system must alter itself because, if nothing else, the ideas of justice and fairness are the "colors" of America that will not go away. If it does I will be glad to leave. Neither of us has solved this problem but we have offered thoughtful ideas and where else, with further cultivation of ideas, the answer might be found.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Oct, 2003 08:15 am
dov1953 wrote:
Doesn't an amendment to the Constitution, from 1887 or so, say that no one can be compelled to work without compensation "except as required by law"?

No.
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Oct, 2003 08:32 am
Re: reform legal system in US?
dov1953 wrote:
It is often presumed in the US that all are equal before the law. I think it says something to that effect in the Constitution.


"Presuming" things gets one into trouble. The closest anything comes to this in the Constitution is the 14th Amendment which says (basiclly) that laws will be applied equeally to all. But that is very different than everyone being equeal before the law. As Jes pointed out "All men are created equeal..." comes from the Declaration of Independence which isn't law and also says only that they are all created equeal. It doesn't say they remain equeal throughout their lives.


Quote:
...how do you think that a universally fair system could be brought about? I don't think there is anyway around the fact that the best lawyers are going to go to the more affluent clients, so how could this system be reformed.


It can't be done. "Fair" is one of those things that remains in the eye of the beholder. Laws are implemented to either permit or restrict people's activity in some way. People only see laws as "fair" as long as they agree with them. Once the law is used against them it becomes an "unfair" invasion.

Law, as a concept, is adversarial since it's purpose is to resolve (or prevent..) conflict. In any situation someone will "win" and someone will "lose". Those who win generally see "the law" as fair. Those who "lose" don't so the law will never be seen as "universally fair".
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Oct, 2003 11:07 am
dov1953 wrote:
.... Are you in fact really required to do free work or is it that the pay is minimal? ...


Pro bono work has to be done for free. That's free, as in no pay whatsoever. The 13th Amendment (against Involuntary Servitude) does not apply; pro bono is a condition of my keeping my license.
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dov1953
 
  1  
Reply Sun 5 Oct, 2003 12:05 am
Mad jespah, bummer about that pro bono rip-off. Sounds like lawyers are screwed in that regard. Where did the states get the idea that they had the right to "license" you anyway? Maybe they should be licensed by the people based on the Supreme's idea of "good conduct". On that fair trial issue, is anyone really trying to say that it is impossible, unrecognizable and unguaranteed? Even if its not written in historic American blood, but it is with us forever as Common Law is to the British. It can not be left undecided, if it is, because it is a guarantee of racial disparity in prison, and so a powder keg.
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Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Sun 5 Oct, 2003 05:59 am
fishin' -- you're right, as usual, in saying that the 14th Amenment to the US Constitution does not, in so many words, say that everyone is equal in front of the law. This, however, has been the interpretation of the Amendment in a number of US Supreme Court cases. In the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson, Justice Brown made it a point of emphasizing not only that this is what the Amendment means but that this is all that the amendment means.
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Sun 5 Oct, 2003 02:28 pm
dov1953 wrote:
Mad jespah, bummer about that pro bono rip-off. Sounds like lawyers are screwed in that regard. Where did the states get the idea that they had the right to "license" you anyway? ....


States license lawyers (just like they license a lot of other professions, such as doctors) in order to protect the public. Without licensure (which requires a specific type of education, passing the Bar and passing the ethics exam, along with being vouched for by members of the legal and general community), pretty much anyone could play at being lawyer. And, I'm sure you'll agree, justice and freedom are too important to be entrusted to people with no education, etc. Not to say that all lawyers are wonderful. Licensing is no guarantee of that. It just guarantees minimal competency.
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