Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Tort Reform Part Duex

This is a respons I got to my tort reform posting which I think is interesting and decided to repost as a differnet point of view I have not heard before.

Boomr wrote - "I agree that the system that most needs reforming (or outright banishment) is the jury system. It leads to a lack of uniformity across different areas of the country (and even the same state - travel from New Orleans to the next town over, and juries will be substantially different). And it often results in a complete slap in the face to black-letter law. Even in jurisdictions that already have damage caps, juries still regularly award vast sums BEYOND the cap, necessitating further litigation to reduce the award to comply with the cap set by law. The old adage rings true: a jury generally consists of 12 people too ignorant to get out of jury duty.

Personally, I think if the jury system is to be kept, there needs to be a better way to do it. I don't have any experience with criminal law, but I know a tiny bit about grand juries -- they're usually impanelled for a set amount of time, with the same set of jurors hearing a number of different cases. Basically, they're a limited form of professional juror. Why not bring this into the trial stage? If juries are so important, then give them more of an indoctrination into the process than the 5-minute spiel given to a room full of bored jurors at the beginning of jury service, and the limited instructions given by the judge after trial ends. Give them a salary and benefits, make them part of the institution. Or even make extended jury service (6 months to a year) a part of compulsory national or state service, like registering for the draft, but with a required training period prior to actually being seated on a jury. Send 'em to jury boot camp.

Do we really want our laws interpreted by people who, by the very nature of the jury selection process, have to PROVE that they know nothing about the law and the facts of the particular case they're hearing? I sure don't. I guarantee that if you remove the jury system, or alter it to remove its ability to ignore the law and rule by pure emotion, then the so-called "frivolous" lawsuits would decrease dramatically.

Basically, when politicians like Bush say they're fed up with the "frivolous lawsuits and the trial lawyers," they're basically saying that they're fed up with the juries who are swayed by the trial lawyers. Funny that the jurors who get swayed by lawyers are the same voters who get swayed by ultra-partisan campaign rhetoric, replete with the same lies and deceptions that fill a trial lawyer's closing arguments. In essence a campaign is nothing more than a trial in a bigger courtroom, with a bigger jury, and bigger deceptions. Bush and Kerry are both trial lawyers, they just paint themselves with the brush of a different career. By coming out aqainst frivolous lawsuits, they're really indicting their own participation in the big charade.

But that's the fundamental problem with a so-called "democratic" system, isn't it? All aspects of a democratic society are ruled by the people, the majority of whom are in the dead center of the bell curve for any statistical analysis (intelligence, income, religion, political leanings, etc.). The "democratic" system, whether manifesting in the jury system or in the Commeddia del'Arte play that is national politics, is ruled by the least common denominator. That's why trial lawyers and politicians pander to the "common man," don't want to appear to be as intellectual as they could possibly be (OK, maybe not in Bush's case), and do everything they can to make themselves as acceptable to as many people as possible, without making anyone angry. And that's why the country still has big problems.

Juries are bad, M'kay? "

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