Friday, June 4, 2010

Judges are Fallible Human Beings Too

We are all human beings. Sometimes, we get into disputes. Since it is not always wise to partake in physical conflict, nor is it necessarily the fairest method, people through the ages have tried to figure out ways to implement better, fairer, more just dispute resolution methods. Once upon a time there were kings and people would bring their grievances in front of him. After all, it was his land, by divine right, that everyone lived upon. Or so said he and the men with the swords who enforced his laws. He would decide which party was in the right and which was in the wrong. If one was lucky and the king was objective, one might be able to find justice and fairness. The problem was, however, that kings were not always objective and too often it would matter not so much who was in the right and who was in the wrong, but who knew whom in relation to the power structure.

This kind of system managed to survive for thousands of years. But as humans flourished and populations grew, the systems had to evolve. For one thing, there were too many people with too many disputes and kings likely didn't have the time to deal with them all personally. For another, people began to migrate away from castles and into new cities that were popping up across Europe. More courts were created and judges appointed. Quite often these were called the "king's courts" and those involved, including judges, were the representatives of the king. Though some likely found some justice, I would venture a guess that the corruption in those courts was rampant. The church's courts were even worse if one is to judge by what happened to those who were convicted of witchcraft.

In their courtrooms, judges have always been the top dog. They still demand obedience from all who pass through the door into the their "court of law." To this very day people are expected to be reverent when attending court. To this day they are asked to stand when the judge enters the courtroom and address him as "your honor" when speaking, creating in him an aura of superiority and perhaps even piety toward the law. After all, not only does he command the respect and unquestioning support of men with guns, he is the final arbiter of the law while one stands accused before him. That is, of course, unless one has the financial wherewithal to afford an appeal should one be necessary, or worthwhile. The claim is there is equal justice for all available to Americans, yet a railroaded poor man will sit in a prison cell while a wealthier man can spend his wealth to try to keep what freedom he has. The judges don't care. They owe their fealty to the mechanism of the state, and they feel you owe your fealty and your worship to them.

The system of American justice was supposed to rise above the courts of the past. It was supposed to consider every man innocent until proven guilty. It was supposed to provide equal justice for people of all walks of life and affect fair dispute resolution no matter your social and financial standing. It was supposed to protect your individual rights from intrusive government and agencies far more powerful than most individuals could ever hope to be. I would say that the court system has long since failed in its mandate, if indeed it has ever succeeded. Perhaps it was a better system long ago before I was born and perhaps it is better than the systems of other governments, but it has a spotty history of very poor decisions and of supporting the "rights" of ambiguous groups of questionable definition over the rights of real, definitive individuals.

Do not depend on the judges of this country to protect your individual rights. Indeed, they are likely to do the opposite. They are likely to side with the state and justify violations of individual rights for some promise of government security against what some phantom might be planning rather than sticking to not only principle, but what was meant to be the law of the land. That is what keeps their friends in power, it is what keeps them in power. They would rather rule over a nation of scared sheep simpering at the shadows they cast than live side by side in honor with free men willing to make their own destinies.

We, the common folk, have to reassert our power if we are to again have a just and fair dispute resolution system in this nation. We must recognize that our court system in its current form is being used to suppress our individual rights rather than protect them from government abuse. Once again, it is up to the common folk to show the way. Judges, as intelligent as they are supposed to be and as well meaning as some may be, are human beings, not superior beings. They do not know better than the rest of us and they are just as likely to become corrupt and look after their own interests and those of their friends rather than concern themselves with the founding principles of this nation, just like any other politician.

This is why jury nullification was instituted. We are the final arbiters of whether or not a law is fair. Of course, judges will try to say differently, but a truly educated populace would be harder to convince. It is through this mechanism we will be able to return our justice system back into the fair and just system it was meant to be, a system for making certain the people get their chance to judge the law, not simply those who violate the law. Through jury nullification we can rid ourselves of bad tax law, laws prohibiting certain substances such as medicinal herbs and marijuana, laws limiting the freedom of speech and prohibiting political dissent, laws restricting how news is reported and disseminated, laws that require the purchase of an unwanted service, national ID laws, etc., ad nausem. These types of laws were fought against by the founders of this nation, foreign governments that used them were admonished by my teachers and elders when I was growing up, and yet they somehow have become acceptable to our modern political elite who foist them upon a protesting populace selling them as a way to security in an insecure world. Well, these laws are not acceptable to me, and I hope they are not acceptable to most.

A couple of things need to start happening in order for this to work, however. First off, people need to start taking their cases all the way to court and trying them in front of juries. This system we have of plea bargaining has helped to strip the power of the populace to judge the law by preventing them from hearing cases where it becomes obvious how harmful these laws can be. For instance, I remember hearing quite often when I was kid the phrase "no jury would ever convict you." Nowadays, it is not necessary for a jury to convict you. A recent example of this possibility has hit the news in Chicago, near where I live. An eighty four year old man shot and killed a home intruder. He acted in self defense. Yet in Chicago, the right to self defense is questioned because there is a law forbidding gun ownership even for home defense. This old man is being charged with a crime because he defended himself in his own home. They will likely offer him a plea bargain because he obviously violated that law, but it is my hope he takes it in front of a jury and they judge the law as unjust and let him go free.

Secondly, you as a freedom loving individual must take action. As a person of conscience and principle, you need to start trying to get on jury duty rather than avoiding it. It is not enough to simply try to educate others about jury nullification, although that is an admirable endeavor. Assume that you will be the only one on the jury to know about jury nullification. This is where things might get a little distasteful. One of your principles might have to be set aside. You may have to lie, or at least deceive, to get on a jury. The system is so afraid of free thinking people that if it is discovered that you know about and will exercise jury nullification, either the judge or the prosecutor will not allow you to sit on a jury. It's best to keep your mouth shut and to even outright lie if necessary if we are to show the political elite that we will not allow their unpopular laws to take root.

It is difficult to fathom that people with such obviously collectivist views like Elena Kagan has are able to gain such power. Yet this is the way it seems to be. She will soon be a member of the Supreme Court and will be judging the laws that are written by a bunch of other collectivists sitting in Congress. It is up to the common folk to voice their objections to collectivist dogma in the strongest way possible. It is up to us to exercise the power we have in whatever venue necessary to make sure the principles of individual rights and liberty are honored by our politicians and their magistrates. With an educated and willing populace, it will not matter what laws are passed, it will only matter what laws we allow them to enforce. Jury nullification worked to reverse the prohibition on alcohol in the early part of last century, it can work to reverse the devastating laws that have been passed in the early part of this century, but it will not work if you remain apathetic and do nothing to make it work.

No comments: