….. Here was the prosecutor being prosecuted. Here was the inversion of justice, the purported defender of truth, justice and the American way being exposed as a purveyor of lies, injustice and subversion of constitutional rights , and better yet, he is being made to pay for it.
Regrettably, Mr. Nifong is not a rare creature. From coast to coast,
is plagued with the twin epidemics of legal and government abuse. Defining legal and government abuse is a task I will assume right now.
Legal abuse occurs when lawyers, their clients, and/or court officials and judges use and manipulate the court system to deliberately and maliciously perpetuate an injustice.
Governmentabuse occurs when politicians or bureaucrats use and manipulate their authority for the purpose of achieving an illegitimate goal.
Legal and government abuse often occur together for obvious reasons. Governments often do mischief through legal process, and government is the largest employer of lawyers,.
The examples of these varieties ofbad behavior are so frequent and so many it would fill several encyclopedias.
experienced it in
recently when several judges and lawyers were caught on tape fixing divorce cases. The story made the
media, but not the national media.
The story should have made people realize that if this kind of conduct occurs in
, it can occur in
or anywhere else, including here.
Similarly, if a prosecutor is suppressing evidence favorable to the defense in
, then a prosecutor here might be capable of the same kind of thing. Because sequestering evidence is done in secret, no doubt a lot instances of it are going on all the time and nobody learns about it.
How many people are in jail because their families could not afford million dollar legal defense teams with state of the artprivate detectives the way the Duke kids' families did ?
How many people know that in the aftermath of the massacre of the Branch Davidian church community in
by the ATF, a United States Assistant Attorney was indicted for obstruction of justice, lying to a grand jury and lying to federal investigators in the course of a review of the incident? Few know, because the media pretty much ignored the story.
The litany goes on and on. Last year one Arthur Scott, Jr, a
, was detected accepting $14,000 in bribes to fix landlord tenant cases. The kind of impact this kind of incident makes on the public is devastating. Respect for the law and respect for the legal system is diminished and society as a whole pays the price
In Chicago, a case fixing epidemic led to the ends of the careers of several judges in the nineteen nineties.
Every time a judge accepts bribe or a prosecutor violates the canons of ethics, it means that somebody else is being deprived of fair treatment in a case.
But the really serious epidemic is probably not one of bribery. It is one of entrenched power protecting other entrenched interests, creating a wall between the ordinary people and local power elites who rule the roost in police departments, bar associations and the Courthouse. In these situations where favorites are played all the time, outsiders lose because they are outsiders and insiders win because they are insiders, because they are localelites or connected with localelites, or at least the power structure of police, prosecutors, insurance companies' local counsel s, other corporate interests and government interests. It is almost always rigged against the little people.
Years ago the author was in the business of conductingtraining programs for
un-represented people with legal problems . We did a national outreach, publishing training manuals and a newsletter, and conducted seminars in which we taught legal skills to pro se litigants.
Word traveled to just about every corner of the country of what we were doing and we were besieged by letters from people in small rural towns who told of sheriffs, lawyers and town officials harassing, extorting, framing, and evensexually assaulting them.
We got letters from people whose lawyers had taken their money and done little or nothing, who had missed deadlines, had not communicated with them, had serious conflicts of interest or who had engaged in terrible overreaching by means of fee gouging. There were too many of these stories not to take the problem seriously.
We contacted Congressman James Sensenbrenner and asked his House Judiciary Committee to consider holding hearings on legal abuse in the
. No letters or phone calls were ever returned. We picketed Sensembrenner's office out of frustration. It was especially distressing that Congressman Sensenbrenner was a fellow Republican.
Rather than being part of the problem, every Republican legislator should be anxious to be part of the solution. This is in fact an opportunity not only to stand up for the constitutional rights of constituents, but also to demonstrate to the voting public that we care about this extremely urgent and serious crisis.
There is a very clear way the Republican Party can now take the initiative to deal with legal abuse on a national basis. This would be at the state legislative level, where all50House Judiciary Committees have the ability to hold hearings and exercise subpoena powers. The legislature can hold hearings on the reasons why there is public dissatisfaction with lawyers and the legal system , and to determine what, if anything , can be done to improve the situation.
Similarly, more pressure should be applied on the national level, in Congress , at the House Judiciary Committee where they first dropped the ball.
Lack of confidence in lawyers and the courts has far reaching social and economic consequences, including on the willingness of companies to invest and to create new products and jobs. If people believe their contracts will not be enforced honestly, if their rights as litigants in court will not be respected, they will not risk capital in business, and everybody in the community suffers. This already is happening in many other countries.
The handwriting is on the wall. The country is already spiraling downwards in so many ways. If we lose the legal system, we lose everything.
The author is Chairman of the Hull Republican Town Committee. He practices lawin