Author Topic: Is the American legal system doomed to fail in the long run?  (Read 780 times)

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Offline MrSpock

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Is the American legal system doomed to fail in the long run?
« on: March 17, 2006, 05:47:30 AM »
I could pick one of great many cases as an example, I will pick the O.J. Simpson case, because it is so easy. I don't, I repeat, I do not want to discuss the O.J. case itself. So, here we go.

Many of us saw some of the OJ case. We all remember the experts trying their bloody best to mislead the jury about the DNA issue. We all remember the tables, the DNA photographs, the complex science flying across the table, we all remember having not the faintest clue what the experts were talking about (well, I did know some, but I am a doctor). But even I wasn't totally clear about all the explanations. Now, what chance did Jane Houswife, Joe Accountant and the other jury members had to really understand what those experts were talking about?

The american legal system have great many weaknesses, but none as weak as the jury system itself. It looks great that not some government assigned, potentially partial to one side or the other bozo decides the fate of the accused, but the jury of his/her peers. The concept was inherited from the English legal system, and it worked fine for a long time. Why did it work fine? Because the complexity of the cases didn't exceed the typical comprehension and understanding of the jury members. Did Joe steal that chicken or not? Did Bob kill Jane or not? Were there any witnesses? Yes? No? If yes, what did they see? Up until the 20th century the typical jury case was simple and based on mostly common sense. If those 12 really cared about being fair and just, they could, quite easily. But the 20th century, the rapid increase in knowledge in general, technology which became part of our everyday life, made the life of the typical jury more and more difficult, the typical jury member understood less and less.

The court system tried (and trying) to patch that holes in knowledge and understanding with the so called "expert witnesses". Where people, who know that particular area of knowledge, come to the courtroom and make an attempt to explain to the jury this and that (which is expected that they wouldn't understand on their own). And here comes the first of the major problems:

In order for the typical jury member to really understand a complex (for example: scientific) issue, we are expecting the jury member to understand something, which took years for the expert to understand. Is that really a realistic expectation? Did Jane Housewife really understand the details of DNA fingerprinting? Did she really understand the concept of probability? Did she really understood the whole thing? Did she even have the chance? I really don't think so. We go to school for years to capture the nitty-gritty details of a particular field. Can that be transferred to a total beginner in a matter of hours, days? I really don't think so. And comes the second of the major problems:

The expert witnesses (named wrongly, as the person witnessed absolutely nothing, but that's only a naming issue) are not independent. Either the prosecution or the defense (in criminal cases as well as in civil cases) hires them. I repeat, HIRES them. For money. How likely that either side would hire somebody who will testify AGAINST their client? How likely that either side would hire someone without asking his opinion about the case, before the person gets to the stand?
We all admit that it is not very likely. How likely that either side would hire an expert, after learning that his opinion would harm their client? Isn't it more likely that they are going to "shop around" until they find someone who is either willing to distort the truth (assuming he knows the truth) for the money he gets, or not really an expert, thus knows the issue wrong?

So, we have a built in huge bias before the expert even gets in front of the jury. Then the expert gets in front of Jane Housewife and tries to convince her, one way or the other. The typical court case contains opposing experts and Jane Housewife will have to decide which is right, which is wrong, which is reliable, which is unreliable. Does Jane have this capacity? I really don't think so. Jane would have to KNOW MORE, in order to be a fair arbiter. And Jane doesn't know more, that's why the expert is needed in the first place.

Interesting to mention: in the early 90s I wrote about this to the Attorney General of the USA and to my surprise, I got a real answer from one of the Assistant Attorney General. He wrote:"You are right...................but judges do have the right to hire independent experts, they just typically don't"

Thus many cases is a battle of either lying or incompetent experts, lawyers, trying to win over the jury members. Whoever is better in this battle, ends up winning. And that's not how it should work. If the expert aspect of a case would really rely on true knowledge, TYPICALLY the experts on BOTH SIDES should say the same thing, whatever it is. The mere fact that they almost always contradict one another shows clearly, that the experts don't really explore the known truth to the jury members. Yet, they have to decide. The result of all this almost must be increasing number of erroneous outcomes. The jury, more and more detached from reality.
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The typical composition of the jury also leads to the same direction. We all know the laughable amount of money the jury members are paid to be there. More educated people with higher paying jobs try to avoid jury duty any way they can. Worse yet, lawyers don't mind that one bit, they WANT a dumb jury, in hope that they can be more manipulated.
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Another issue: the number of lawyers in USA. Approaching one million. For a population of 300 million people that comes out about 1 lawyer for 300 people. How can the legal issues of 300 people (on the average) provide a natural living to an average lawyer? In a sane and fair society where legal matters come as a result of societal need, that seems impossible. The only way that is possible, if many artificial cases are generated. And they ARE generated. That is our civil court system. America became a "litigation conscious society" because the increasing number of lawyers had to "generate" more and more cases, in order for them to have enough work. The "ambulance chasing" lawyer became a symbol of this problem.
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The "precedent based" legal system allows each problem being tried, re-tried, re-re-tried, over and over again, in every courtroom of the country. That is horribly inefficient (but provides work to one million lawyers).
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More and more money being pumped into the legal system, more and more money changes hands in totally arbitrary ways, more and more matters are hauled into courtrooms, more and more human actions are becoming "illegal", despite being victimless or not. Something is fundamentally wrong with the american legal system. The above items are just a couple of examples I chose to present.

I am opening this thread to discuss this issue. Please write down your answers to my points above, or write your independent opinion. Please spare me and the others from meaningless one-liners. What changes, if any, can you envision in the american legal system?

Gabor

Offline Proemio

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Re: Is the American legal system doomed to fail in the long run?
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2006, 12:33:38 PM »
Quote
Is the American legal system doomed to fail in the long run?
Yes.

Offline Proemio

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Re: Is the American legal system doomed to fail in the long run?
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2006, 12:34:12 PM »
OK, no one liners, then.

Yes, in the US and every other "nation UNDER law". The "under" pretty much tells the story.
A few years ago, someone (a University?) made a compilation of various available data (US):
5 million plus laws in effect (fed, state, local);
each legislative day (~150), 300+ new laws are enacted;

That is insane!

I intend to 'prove' the following (over the next few years :D ):

Justice < #laws
or
The level of attainable Justice is inversely proportional to the number of laws/regulations created.

The formula also explains why the scum is rising ever faster to the top...

Offline Liberty_Burning

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Re: Is the American legal system doomed to fail in the long run?
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2006, 03:06:42 PM »
I thought it already had.

Offline tinymind

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Re: Is the American legal system doomed to fail in the long run?
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2006, 03:18:31 PM »
Well, we "anti-semites" would say that the "American legal system" morphed into talmudist bullshitting quite some time ago.

Lawyers in the US are preponderately Jewish aren't they?

QED.



Nothing can be understood before it is imagined

Offline MrSpock

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Re: Is the American legal system doomed to fail in the long run?
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2006, 03:39:07 PM »
Yes.

Any detailed opinion perhaps?

Gabor

Offline Proemio

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Re: Is the American legal system doomed to fail in the long run?
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2006, 04:18:18 PM »
Any detailed opinion perhaps?
It's been there all the time. Three posts up.