Monday, August 4, 2008

There's something not right in the state of justice

Happy Monday. We had a wonderful time in New York with children and grandchildren, taking advantage of Central Park and its great playground. Hope yours was good, too.

The justice system has been eating at my craw for a while, not for anything that's been done to me. Let me make that clear.  I keep hearing from friends and others that the state of the justice system is lousy.

I agree, for reasons that I will try to make clear later in this posting.

This isn't a reaction to the shenanigans at the Department of Justice or the latest national attorneys general. It's just a general feeling that something is rotten in the state of justice.

The latest example is Elizabeth Halverson, a Las Vegas judge, who has been accused of all manner of wrongdoing, including meeting with juries without lawyers present, using court personnel as her personal lackeys, and the like. The court system has prevented her from hearing any cases for about a year, according to CBS news, but has continued to pay her.

So, I asked myself, why this negative feeling about the justice system?

 As a journalist, I learned early that the perception of wrong is as important as the wrong itself. That's why ethical journalists won't take things from sources, even small things like lunches, pens, bottles of booze. It's not that I'm going to be bought for a movie ticket or a pen, but someone might infer that, so I don't do it.

Maybe that's what's going on here. Maybe there could be a dialogue begun on that. There is a space at the end of each blog that allows comment. It's easy to comment on this or any subject. I know it asks for your e-mail address, but it's up to me whether to print it or not. Just say you want to be anonymous and you will be.

OK, here are my reasons for thinking something is rotten in the state of justice.

1. Ambulance chasers. If you have been injured in anything, an accident, a fall, a birthing accident, from a doctor, a nurse, somebody walking down the street who looked askance, call a lawyer. That's the message from television ad after television ad. Sure, there are those who have legitimate complaints. I know a few and I hope their lawyers get them big settlements.

But, and this is a huge but, they already know to call a lawyer. I have been in that situation myself but, thank heaven, it wasn't serious enough to worry about.

Lawyer ads tell people to call about scratches on their cars, about a fall where they were not hurt except perhaps for their pride. 

There was a situation a few months back where a heart drug that many people take mistakenly was produced in double the strength many people take. The mistake was caught and I know from at least one person who takes that drug that his pharmacy told him about it, replaced the errant prescription and the like. It cost him nothing, and he even got a couple of dozen pills free. No harm, no foul.

After learning of the error and the quick action to correct it, I listened for the lawyer ad concerning this quickly reversed error. 

I didn't have to listen long. 

2. Court shows. First, there was The People's Court. Judge Joseph A. Wapner presided over small-claims cases. He was a real judge and, for the first time, the litigants were real people, not actors. Then there was Ed Koch. He was a mayor, a councilman, a congressman, everything except a judge. Yes, he was a lawyer and he had a temper. 

Judge Greg Mathis' shtick is that he is a former juvenile delinquent who rose from a jail cell to become a lawyer and a judge. Now he gets to give second chances. I like watching his show because he explains a little bit about evidence and right and wrong. But often, people are branded as drug addicts or drunks. He allows accusations about terrible conduct that has nothing whatsoever to do with the case at hand. It's entertaining, but hardly justice.

The others are boring and meld into mediocrity. Divorce Court is nearly always hackneyed: men who refuse to support their wives and children and cheat with anything with a pulse. 

Then there's Judge Judy. Judith Sheindlin is my favorite, nasty as can be to bad people, not much better to good ones. "I'm speaking," she shouts at one and all. My guess is that a judge who treated plaintiffs or defendants the way she does would quickly be out of a job. 

At least I hope so.

My point is that familiarity breeds contempt. Courts don't look like this. There is evidence, to which judges give lip service, but sometimes little else.

Courts are temples of justice and should be a little mysterious. Certainly, the judges should not be television characters.

And lawyers should not be hawking their wares on television or in any ads. At one point, lawyers could only advertise to let people know they are in business, like taking out ads in the yellow pages. 

It was better back then. As a taxpayer, I don't have to shell out for courts that hear nonsense cases. 

What do you think?

... Until next time

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What I think is as a journalist you should do a little more research.

In the case of Judge Elizabeth Halverson you really need to look at all the facts. At a quick glance it looks like a Judge out of control. However, when you REALLY look at the facts what you will find are MANY inconsistencies.

This is far more a case of a very corrupt group of Judges who do business with a slide of a hand full of money and hushed lips. The real reason Halverson is being harrassed and Ousted is not because she was a bad girl and alledgely mean to her staff. (which by the way, she inhertited the staff from the last judge.. they worked for her for 3 months.. made all kinds of allegations. The replacement staff worked for her for 3 months. NONE of the staff had one bad comment to say about Judge Halverson. NONE saw her "sleep on the bench". NONE felt mistreated..

The reason she is out is because she does not fit in. She is a HUGE fat disabled woman on a scooter, on oxygen. She has had a bad history with the Chief Judge (because she ran for office against her husband and lost by 1% of the vote). Kathy Hardcastle.

This is about a personal vendetta of Hardcastle that turned into somthing much, much larger. Halverson cannot be bought. She does not follow the status quo. She will not cow-tow to special interest groups.

THAT is the issue. SHE DOES NOT FIT IN to the good ole boys and girls network...

There you go...Not always what it seems.. not always what the press wants you to believe.