Tuesday, April 28, 2009

2374 Screwed up legal system

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's no secret that I think the US legal system is a screwed up mess. It's no secret that prosecutors are more interested in winning than in finding the truth. And it's only coincidentally a personality flaw - it's the way the system is set up. They don't get rewarded for truth, only for wins.

The same with large law firms. Juniors don't make partner by getting to the truth. Only wins count.

It's no secret that innocent people plead guilty or no contest to criminal charges because they earn too much to qualify for a court-appointed attorney, but too little to hire their own. It's cheaper to just pay the fine, or take the 60 days in jail.

It's no secret that there are people who will sue everybody in sight for accidents that they themselves caused, because "it's free money", "it's the insurance company's money, so nobody is hurt". And there are unscrupulous lawyers who will take those cases on contingency because they know that the insurance companies will settle because it's cheaper than going to court, even though they know the plaintiff has no case. No case. But it's cheaper to pay the plaintiff and his lawyer off.

There are people who are serial suers.

There are lawyers who salivate over class action suits. I, personally, get four or more notices a year, every year, that unless I opt out, I am a member of a class action suit. Usually it's either a medical or stock owner thing. Most people just throw those notices away. The few I have followed up on, I discovered that whatever it was that happened, I was not actually affected. But there I am, on their list. In every case, the award is a few gazillion dollars, and each of the plaintiffs (most of whom were not injured in any way) gets a few dollars. The biggest check I have seen from a class action suit was $3.85. The lawyers get the gazillion minus the few thousand they paid the people who allowed themselves to be used to pad the "injured" list. It's no wonder they salivate.

The local TV stations' mid-morning schedule is full of "baby-momma" and judge shows. It's interesting that when the folks are asked "and where did you get the money to...", or "Do you have a job? No? Then what do you live on?", in more than half the instances, the reply is, "I had an award from a lawsuit." It's scary that there are people who think that's how to get free money.

The system encourages it.

I found an interesting website on the topic: http://www.facesoflawsuitabuse.org/, from the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform · 1615 H St N.W. Washington D.C. 20062-2000. They have stories of outrageous lawsuits. There are videos, but you don't have to watch them - you get the same info faster from reading the stories.

Government has been blathering about tort reform for decades. It isn't going to happen if we leave it up to them. The lawyers have the majority vote there, remember?

Frivolous lawsuits must be stopped. Law firms that bring frivolous lawsuits should be penalized. Settlements should be scrutinized and not allowed in frivolous cases. But --- you and I could be sued at the (literal) drop of a hat, and then we'd be forced to hire a lawyer to prove the case frivolous.


This is something we could learn from the French legal system. They do it right. Well, righter.

Post Script -
This entry has had a lot of visits, but next to no one clicks on the above link to my post on the French system.

So I decided to copy the pertinent part here:
In France, according to Jay and his father at least, the object of the courts is to find the truth. Cases are presided over by a panel of judges, who direct the research and investigation, and choose, summon, and question the witnesses. They want the whole truth, not someone's filtered and slanted version of it, and they keep probing until they are satisfied they've got it. Contrast this with American courts, where the object often seems to be to prevent the whole truth from coming out, to pit one attorney's skill at obfuscation and blocking against another's, winner take all.

This means that in the US, the outcome of family, civil, and criminal cases is often determined not by the truth and law, but by whose lawyer could dance faster. Which actually translates to who had the most money. Which explains a lot about the demographics of the prisons.

If I were innocent, I'd want a French court. If I were guilty, I'd want an American court and a rich uncle. That doesn't sound nice at all.

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