We Need to Outlaw Private Court Attorneys
Money tips the scales of justice.
Welcome to JoeWrote! This post is for premium subscribers. You can read this and other premium articles by upgrading your subscription.
Thank you for supporting my work! Joe
To state the obvious, America’s criminal justice system is deeply flawed, if not entirely broken. Polling data varies from question to question, but in totality, it shows a broad consensus that Americans feel the current legal regime isn’t working. According to the ACLU, over two-thirds of Americans would vote for a political candidate who advocated rehabilitative justice over imprisonment, including 65% of 2016 Trump voters. Data aside, any sane person can see that a system that sets serial sex-offender Bill Cosby free while handing out life sentences for marijuana is fundamentally defective.
And while many of these failings can be attributed to intentional malice (see the 13th Amendment’s permittance of slavery as “punishment for a crime”), like most things in our hyper-Capitalist society, much of our system’s inability to achieve justice is the fault of the unequal distribution of wealth, which manifests in the courtroom through the hiring of private attorneys.
On paper, I find the ideals and practices of the American judicial system sound. As the government is infinitely more powerful than any citizen, when someone is charged with a crime, the burden of proof rests on the government to convince twelve jurors that the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Putting the onus of overwhelming proof on the state balances the scale of justice, offsetting the government’s near-limitless resources and monopoly on violence.
And though civil procedures vary from state to state, when one person sues another, as private citizens are of ostensible equal standing, the accuser only needs to show the “preponderance of the evidence,” or that the charge is more likely true than not.
On paper, this system sets up the best chance of justice by treating individuals as equals while compensating for the government’s army of cops, prosecutors, and assistants (as well as its actual army).
But as I said, I like this system — on paper.
Unfortunately, paper is the only place this system actually exists. In reality, economic inequality ruins what could be a sound system of justice, as some citizens have endless resources to bring into the courtroom while others have none. And though bribery and personal connections can’t be ignored, the most common manifestation of economic inequality takes the form of private lawyers.
Tipping the Scales
When the state charges a wealthy citizen with a crime, the defendant’s team of expensive and dedicated lawyers significantly weighs the scales of justice in their favor, making it almost impossible for the government to overcome, even in cases of obvious guilt.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to JoeWrote to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.