THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM AND COMMON SENSE
All Americans think they understand our justice system and how it works. Unfortunately, we get 95% or our perception about the justice system by watching a distorted and abbreviated dramatic presentation via television and the big screen from Hollywood’s point of view. Any lawyer will tell you that the real justice system is nothing like what we see through this medium. The justice system and its courts of law have been devised by lawyers and are being run by lawyers. It is also geared to the protection of criminals, the benefit of lawyers and the continuance of their system.
Let’s look at a few simple case situations where just simple “justice” was sought. I got a speeding ticket recently from a police officer. The officer perceived that I had an “attitude”. That perception was probably right too. However, attitude is not usually a punishable crime. I was first observed speeding in Jurisdiction A, but when finally stopped I had traveled into Jurisdiction B. So the officer decided to adjust my attitude by issuing two citations. One for speeding and one for careless driving. He issued one citation for jurisdiction A and one for jurisdiction B. That way they will not both be heard or seen by a judge in the same jurisdiction. I paid one of the tickets, the speeding one, because basically I had no defense against his radar, and I was actually speeding. However, the second ticket I tried to fight because it constituted double jeopardy. A very basic legal protection in our system whereby by a person is not supposed to be charged with the same offense twice. The traffic judge, in the lesser case of careless driving, simply said he saw only ONE charge before him and refused to accept or consider any evidence indicating that the two charges were based on the same offense and that I had not done anything different. The end result? Guilty.
Now here is where the system starts serving itself. Most of us would figure that they could appeal the injustice of this railroading judge’s decision to a higher court and that their side and the circumstances would be given a fair hearing. Yes, you can appeal, but don’t expect the system to be making any effort toward your receiving “justice”. I had to pay a fee to appeal and then when I got to the appeal process and judge, I was told that since there was no transcript of the case and my presentation before the previous judge, there was no basis upon which the higher judge could reverse the decision of his colleague in traffic court. This is where I was also informed that I had the right to have a court reporter present at the earlier hearing and had I done so, I would then have a transcript to present. Naturally, I would have to have paid for that court reporter. Or, I was told, I could get the officer to sign a statement attesting to what occurred in the previous court, and then this higher judge might read that and consider making a change.
Can you imagine the officer agreeing to sign a statement that would indicate that the judge, who always hears his traffic cases, may have participated with him in a little railroading and charge stacking? If you believe there is ANY possibility to that happening, then you need to stay away from used car salesmen and telephone solicitors.
So, I called a lawyer friend who I thought might be willing to call in the officer for a deposition, whereby he would have been forced to testify about the circumstances, the charges, etc. Then I would have his testimony, all the right questions brought to light and a presentation prepared in a proper legal form. Maybe then I could see “justice served”. First, I might suggest that the lawyer needs to be from your immediate family or you’re going to pay out the wazoo to have this done. (Knowing a lot of lawyers, I suggest you may still be asked to pay even if he is from your immediate family. Especially if you married his sister.) Anyway, let’s say you are able to get your lawyer to do this for free. You must STILL pay, by the hour, an official court reporter to transcribe the testimony and then pay by the page to have it typed up. How about video taping the officer’s testimony and showing that? Yes, that can be done too, but to be admissible it can ONLY be done by a court “authorized” reporter. Are “they” working the system here or what?
The basic rule being that, justice comes ONLY with a price and THEY (the legal parasites) know it! There is an exorbitant price being paid by all us on an ongoing basis. Criminals who can’t afford a defense lawyer, can get one appointed for them …. And guess who pays! YOU and I pay for their defense! As those cases drag out for months and years, you and I pay for the judges, the prosecutors, the defense attorneys, the court reporters, the transcripts, the facilities to hold these hearings, motions, reviews, etc. etc. etc. When the dust clears and all avenues of appeals and monies are exhausted, the criminal may finally be released back into society on some simple technicality, or placed in jail so we can also provide for his meals, medical coverage, television, access to a law library, and more, until he is released early for good behavior during his possibly second or even third time of incarceration.
Somehow I just can’t quite justify the justice in turning a criminal loose because maybe he confessed BEFORE he was informed of his rights and therefore his confession, which can be absolutely verified and his guilt established through facts and even witnesses, gets THROWN OUT! Yet, the system can’t protect the innocent from a case of simple authority abuse from a police officer writing a traffic ticket. This is not the way I was taught things worked in my American History classes and it’s not the way I see justice portrayed on television. I know that television rarely portrays the realities of life, but was my American History book wrong too?
A recent local case brought to mind several issues about justice, common sense, and the fact that there seems to be two sets of rules. One set is for those that work within the system and the other is for us common folks. Let me explain: Seems a local police officer had a terrible headache one day and asked an associate if they had anything that might help. The associated handed over a small white pill that looked very much like an Aspirin, Tylenol, or any number of other over the counter pain remedies. Unfortunately, it was a mild prescription pain killer. Another associate who saw this occur, later faked the same malady, asked the same giver for help, and got one of the same pills. That officer then verified it was a controlled substance and turned in his associates. In the real world at some point we have ALL probably done something like this without much thought about it ever being a federal offense.
Now, under the mentality of “Zero Tolerance”, the giver and take of the medication could have been prosecuted. If it had taken place between two school kids they would certainly have suffered major repercussions from the Zero (Intelligence)Tolerance enforcement patrol. However, in this case, the authorities refused to prosecute because there was “no criminal intent involved”, just bad judgment. Not to mention one associated ready to ruin the career of two of his peers for what must have been personal reasons. I agree with the decision not to prosecute. But what about the kids who have been reprimanded for the same or lesser similar offenses? What about those in jail right now because they may have done something similar and been caught by the “Zero Tolerance – Zero Intelligence Police”? As some said, this case brought out that “other side” of the justice system coin called “Just Us”.
ONE MORE CASE AND I’LL SHUT UP
I personally was involved in a law suit against a former employer for wrongful termination and age discrimination. Like many, I thought that if I worked hard, did my job, met my quotas or job requirements, and was not involved in some criminal activity; that after six or so years within the same company and having receiving a few raises, bonuses, and even special awards etc., that I had some job security. WRONG! As much as I have always previously been against unions, they are your ONLY protection against greed-motivated management and superiors who will readily, and without hesitation, sacrifice you for their own advancement or to cover their own incompetence. Quite often, in the latter case.
The company I sued was a multi-million dollar company with a multi-million dollar law firm, and the bucks to fight. My one attorney took my case on contingency and based on his belief there was merit in it and that I truly had been wronged. We were up against a firm with over 150 lawyers on staff! In the course of several depositions and discovery, we were able to document that this company had falsified documents concerning the case and had even gone so far as to present these falsified documents in pre-trial hearings and motions before the court. Not to mention the fact that the reasons they gave for my dismissal were not even the reasons they were now trying to claim before the court.
Because of our Hollywood and television law degrees, we laymen all think that we will get our day in court and that a jury of our peers will hear the facts, make a credible decision, and “justice” will be served. You could not be more wrong! Without ever being able to present the evidence concerning this company’s willingness to falsify documents, thereby certainly indicating a willingness to perjure themselves about anything if it were to their advantage; my case was dismissed on a summary judgment from a single judge who was presented with a simple motion to dismiss from the big law firm. Could we appeal? Yes! But, now we were back to a phenomenal expense to do so, and that’s just to try and get back into the trial system and before a jury. With no guarantees as to winning, the big money lawyers won for the corporate giant, because the little guys like you and me can’t afford to stay in the battle.
Now consider that the judge in this case lives in the same community as the company. He is an “elected” judge. That means he accepts campaign contributions from local contributors. He may even belong to the same country club as the CEO of the company. He may even play golf with that CEO or other company employees. The law firm with 150 lawyers may have many members in the same country club. Some of them may, on occasion, also play golf with the judge too. He may have awakened the morning after his ruling to find a new Mercedes in his driveway that was a gift to his wife. My lawyer was from another part of the state. I was from a state almost 2000 miles away. Do you really think any form of “justice” occurred here?
The following is a direct quote from the U.S. Constitution., Amendment VII, regarding everyone’s right to a trial by jury in civil cases. (Ratified 12/15/1791)
“In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”
I’m still trying to figure out what happened to my right to trial by jury. I now think I’m qualified to work for the AFL-CIO. Because I can tell you stories about management and the treatment of employees that would guarantee workers would vote to have a union representing them. Bad management, greed, and a lack of respect and recognition for the very people who actually do make a company successful (the workers) is the reason unions were started in the first place. Yes, they too have their own internal problems and abuses, but without them many of today’s upper level management teams would literally consider their employees to be nothing more than one of their commodities or machines to be used and discarded with no consideration as to their families, self worth, health, past contributions, etc.
I’m not openly endorsing labor unions, because a bad union is no trade-off for a badly managed company. I don’t run around loudly singing the “Look for the Union Label” song verses, but I have to admit lately, the tune is beginning to catch my ear.
Here were two cases in which I was personally involved and felt like justice was not served. In the traffic case I saw two judges, including a supposed “higher court” judge support, participate in, and basically condone abuse of the very system they swore to uphold. If judges will abuse the system on minor infractions, how can we trust they do not regularly abuse the system on more important issues? As much as I am hard on crime and a supporter or harsh punishment to convicted criminals, it really scares the heck out of me to see some of these guys abusing and devaluing the entire legal system. Is it any wonder people make rotten and demeaning jokes about lawyers and the system?
I have some good friends who are lawyers and I personally know them to be dedicated, honest, hard working individuals in the system. It’s a shame to see their integrity and the system’s integrity so demeaned from within by the few bad apples.