Chapter 3. Is the Law an Ass ?
The phrase ‘The law is an ass’ originated from Charles Dicken’s Oliver Twist when one of the main characters Mr. Brumble, is informed that the ‘The law supposes that your wife acts under your direction’ to which Mr. Brumble replies ‘If the law suppose that, the law is an ass’.
One of the greatest benefits in living in a free society is the ability to use the legal system to redress grievances, or to right wrongs that have been done to those who come before the courts. However American law is filled with instances of cases that people would just not believe. Some are funny, some are just plain ridiculous, and some beg the question - ‘How did this case ever get to trial’? To do justice to this statement, one needs only look at what some people have actually said in court. The following examples were taken from a book titled –‘Disorder in the American courts’.
Attorney : She had three children, right ?
Witness : Yes
Attorney : How many were boys ?
Witness : None
Attorney : Were there any girls ?
Attorney : Now doctor, isn’t it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn’t know
until the next morning ?
Witness : Did you actually pass the bar exam ?
. Attorney : Were you present when your picture was taken ?
. Attorney : The youngest son, the twenty-year –old, how old is he ?
Is it any wonder the public are sometimes skeptical as to the working minds of some lawyers who at times have a habit of being over - zealous in their questioning.
William Shakespeare was once quoted as saying -
‘The legal process has become a cancer which threatens the vitality of our form of democracy’ while Golda Meir said, ‘Lawyers are like rhinoceroses, thick skinned, short sighted, and always ready to charge’. Perhaps the most damning statement came from Melvin Bell who claimed – ‘Ours is a silk profession marked by incompetence, lack of proper training, misconduct, bad manners, ineptness, bungling, malpractice and bad ethics ,which can be observed in court houses all over the country every day. These incompetents have a seeming unawareness of the fundamental ethics of the profession’.
There is no argument that lawyers are needed in our society to protect the innocent, but on the other hand we have those who knowingly suspect their clients to be guilty, but will use every trick in the trade to have those clients exonerated from charges laid against them.
It may be argued that all clients are innocent until proven guilty, and that lawyers have a responsibility like doctors, to do their utmost for the benefit of their clients and patients.
This is acceptable, but unfortunately there are those in the legal profession who at times put themselves first and their clients second.
Many citizens have different opinions on the profession, and rather than imply that ‘The law is an ass’, they see ‘The law as being a joke’. Take for example the case of a 15 year old juvenile female who was convicted of punching, kicking and stomping on the head of another girl in a brutal attack. The person responsible had previously been convicted of an earlier violent offence, and had been ordered by the Magistrate to serve one hundred hours of community service. At the time she was also put on a two year good behavior bond.
It seems the good behavior bond meant nothing as the offender was again sentenced for yet a second attack – this time she was given a twelve month control order. She was placed on a good behavior bond once again.
The Magistrate handling the second case was apparently swayed by the argument put forward by the offender’s solicitor, who strongly pleaded her cause by arguing his client had apologized to the victim, had completed an anger management course, understood the enormity of her offence, was making an attempt to do the right thing, and had written a letter of apology to the victim.
The family of the bashed girl were irate as can be expected, as the defendant again walked away free, while her victim who could have suffered severe brain damage, was left mentally scarred for life.
On many occasions, the public are incensed that presiding Judges impose jail sentences on convicted persons, only to have those sentences fully suspended – where is the justice they ask?
A safe environment in which to live can only be achieved according to some criminologists, if Judges are genuine in their desire to see that justice is not compromised by inept and spineless decisions that tend to look after the offender, to the detriment of the victim.
This book allows readers to put themselves on the Bench to see if they would have handled things differently in the case in question. Does the justice system adequately protect the rights and interests of those before the courts from incompetent lawyers and Judges?