TCS Daily


Depoliticizing Crime and Decriminalizing Politics

By James H. Joyner - March 26, 2007 12:00 AM

The recent flap over the Bush Administration's firing of eight U.S. attorneys has demonstrated the escalation of two related and unfortunate trends in American politics: the politicization of crime and the criminalization of politics.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other Administration officials have contended that the firings were for "performance" reasons and emphasized that they were well within the prerogative of the president, since U.S. Attorneys are appointees who "serve at the pleasure of the president." Congressional Democrats (and an increasing number of Congressional Republicans) smell something fishy in some of the firings, whose timings were suspiciously close with impending indictments against prominent Republicans or failed attempts exercise political pressure to bring prosecutions against Democrats for voter fraud. Further, some contend that Administration officials may have perjured themselves in misrepresenting the nature of the firings to Congress.

New York Times columnist David Brooks points out that the word "political" is being used in multiple ways in this debate: "The prosecutors are properly political when their choices are influenced by the policy priorities of elected officeholders. If the president thinks prosecutors should spend more time going after terrorists, prosecutors should follow his lead. But prosecutors are improperly political if they bow to pressure to protect members of the president's party or team." Liberal pundit Michael Kinsley agrees: "If the president believes strongly in prosecuting pornographers, he is not just within his rights but within his duties to fire a prosecutor who ignores those cases. If, at the other extreme, he wants a prosecutor to drop a case against a large contributor, that is political in the bad sense."

Washington Monthly blogger Kevin Drum's invocation of Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre is a useful one. Rather obviously, firing a prosecutor because he's getting too close to the president or his friends is outrageous. It's not illegal, however.

Brooks and Troy University political scientist Steven Taylor, both Republicans who voted twice for Bush, argue that the administration likely crossed the line into the "bad" politics in some of the firings. Moreover, they contend that the senior staff's representation of the facts to Congress is at best troubling and at worst illegal.

Regardless of whether any laws were broken, there has been a disturbing lack of professionalism in the way this has been handled, from the overzealous reaction to the president's expressed concern about going after voter fraud to the instinctive CYA mode when Congress started making inquiries. Gonzales, former presidential counsel Harriet Miers, and others acted like young interns trying to please the boss rather than seasoned executives trying to serve the boss' greater interests. Professionals perform due diligence and come back and explain to the boss why what he wants can't be done or at least outline the risks. There's no evidence I can see that this was done.

Not only does "political" have multiple meanings with a continuum of nuance between them, so does "performance." For political appointees, the president's areas of emphasis presumably drive the definition. As Kinsley notes, if a U.S. Attorney is failing to be aggressive in going after the types of cases that the president wants prosecuted, he is not performing his job to expectations and should expect to be fired. If, on the other hand, he there is a Saturday Night Massacre situation-the attorney is refusing to prosecute or back off based on partisan pressure-then we have a scandalous situation. There is suspicion that this is the case in at least a couple of the firings, although that has yet to be demonstrated beyond circumstantial evidence.

As freelance writer Jim Henley and others have noted about this and other political brouhahas, the real scandal is often what's legal. Some things, like the prosecution or non-prosecution of crimes, rather obviously shouldn't be influenced by partisan political considerations. Yet, the 93 lead federal prosecutors, the Solicitor General, and the Attorney General are all political appointees who, by virtue of that means of selection, are there to carry out the wishes of the president. This creates an inherent appearance of impropriety even when things are kosher.

Because of the wide scope of their duties, the AG and Solicitor General almost have to be appointed by the president. Fortunately, they are highly visible figures (at least in political circles) and Congress and watchdog groups can easily keep an eye over them. Conversely, U.S. Attorneys have a relatively narrow function and most operate in obscurity far from the Capitol. It's far from clear why they should be hired and fired on a political basis.

Liberal blogger Jonathan Singer contends that, "While it is certainly expected that an administration would infuse politics into its decision-making process and even consider partisan ramifications at any turn, the degree to which the Bush administration has relied on partisan politics to make decisions and to which it has partisanized the levers of the federal government is truly unprecedented." My only quibble-and it's just that, not an excuse-is that Bush is following a trend, not creating one. That is, what I have termed "the politicization of everything" has been going on for quite some time now. Bill Clinton's administration took it to a level of high art. Unfortunately, its successor, which ran on a pledge to "restore decency and integrity to the Oval Office," has instead raised the bar.

The corollary phenomenon, an outgrowth of the Watergate scandal, is the criminalization of even minor political disputes. Petty squabbles over such things as whether Bush 41 chief of staff John Sununu improperly used government vehicles to enhance his stamp collection or the firings of low level Travel Office staffers in the Clinton Administration have led to calls for criminal investigation. The use of independent counsels, special prosecutors, congressional subpoenas and the like are so pervasive as to be commonplace. The unfortunate result is more entrenchment and reluctance to simply come forward and admit mistakes. Ironically, as we saw in the Scooter Libby trial, that often leads to actual criminal conduct.

It's time to reverse both these trends. Taking U.S. Attorneys out of the political process by making them either term appointments, as with the FBI Director or Federal Reserve Chairman, who are fireable only for cause, or making them non-appointed Senior Executive Service civil servants, would be an excellent start to the depoliticization of crime, at least on the federal level. Decriminalizing politics, on the other hand, will not be so easy.

James H. Joyner, Jr. writes about public policy issues at Outside the Beltway.


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42 Comments

Well written and thoughtful
If you ignore the need to frame everything in "yes, this is bad but Clinton was worse," it's almost balanced and offers real solutions to the problem.

Lasting relief is needed
In this instance there is certainly the appearance of wrongdoing-- and not some mere peccadillo. There is the appearance of lawmakers attempting to suborn the prosecution in at least one ongoing federal case. And the Iglesias case is just the tip of the iceberg. Prompt and thorough hearings need to be convened so we can deal definitively with an issue that undercuts judicial independence and compromises the workings of the law itself.

But beyond the instance of Mr Iglesias and those he says sought to influence him-- and beyond the case histories of the other seven who were fired-- and beyond even the curious circumstances that also need exploring in the histories of all the federal prosecutors who did NOT get fired-- there is a larger issue.

That is the obvious capacity for harm inherent in having the Justice Department be a part of the Executive Branch. I believe the time is right to begin discussions on the feasibility of introducing a constitutional amendment separating Justice entirely from White House control.

You should agree. After all, considering how the current administration has handled navigation of our great ship of state, there is a very strong likelihood the next administration will be Democratic. Do you want to give them the chance to perform as poorly as this administration apparently has? Neither party has a lock on politicising matters that should at all cost be kept separate from either end of Capitol Hill.

Poorly performing, or nonperforming, DoJ heads have been rife in American politics, from John Mitchell to Janet Reno. And even more recently, my personal favorite gentleman of Justice, John Ashcroft, during the 2000 election campaign, received a cash contribution of $574,999, from a company named

Enron.

I wonder what delays and disinterest that money, instrumental in the Republican victory, may have bought.

So for all those past reasons, and all the future reasons waiting to unfold, I would support a speedy end to the cabinet position of Attorney General. That office should be above politics, and an independent office within the judiciary.

DAs should be political
It is one more reason to either rehire a politician or to fire him.

The one thing this country does not need is another J. Edgar Hoover.

Reno was a fine example of how Clinton viewed the law and her performance will always be linked to Clinton, as it should.

Enforcing the law and national defense are two of the most important functions of government and to separate them from the political process is one more step to tyranny.

The marjon Seal of Approval
Oh, good lord! How can you possibly come up with an apologia for pols corrupting the judicial process?

Obviously nearly all of us have some political sympathies. We're not going to find attorneys general, Supreme Court justices or federal prosecutors who are entirely free of personal opinion. But what we can do is to insist in a separation of powers, so the gang running the country is not necessarily the same as the crowd running prosecutions.

In fact there is an obvious conflict of interest if the administration owns the attorney general.

I would just make this an elected office. And just the way voters typically feel more comfortable with a Congress in opposition to the White House, I think they would be better served with an independent AG, who might be from any party, or from none.

Separation of Powers
Under which branch of government would you place the Attorney General?

"The position of United States Attorney was created by the Judiciary Act of 1789, one of the earliest enactments of the first Congress. It provided for a Supreme Court with five associate justices and one chief justice; a district court and a district judge for each of the thirteen states; three circuit courts; and the executive branch offices of Attorney General and United States Attorneys. Each United States Attorney was limited to handling legal matters for the federal government within an individual district, and the Attorney General handled litigation in the Supreme Court."

http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/md/Office/History/ourhistory.html

Instead of complicating the Constitution further, it would be much better if the power of the AG was limited by what is strictly defined in the Constitution.

Chopping out a few unconstitutional departments would be a great start.

As the federal government usurps more power from the states, the politics of the AG and US attorneys will become more polarized.

Automatic, unaccountable government
A majority of the federal budget is on automatic pilot. Congress has abdicated its authority on 'entitlement' programs.

The FBI director is appointed for a fixed term which spans presidential elections as does the Federal Reserve Chairman. This was done, it is claimed, to limit the politics.
What it has done is once again allowed the President and Congress to avoid taking responsibility.

The solution to the AG issue is not to give the President and Congress another pass. Make Congress and the President do their jobs.

And if you don't believe Congress and the President are up to the task, maybe we the people need to force all branches of government to only perform those duties specifically defined in the Constitution.

The more government functions they put on automatic pilot, the more time they have to play politics and look pretty on TV.

A strong and independent Justice Department
I'm sorry-- I thought my meaning was evident, that the Justice Department should be an independent arm of the judiciary branch, co-equal with and not answerable to the Supreme Court.

And the AG should be an elected official. The mission of the Justice Department would be to investigate, and possibly prepare for trial, any instances of gross abuse that are injurious to the public welfare, whether they arise in the other two branches of government, from organized crime or from corrupt or abusive business practises, or from any other origin.

Rather than talking about how to limit their powers, we should be talking about how badly this mission needs to be accomplished. Your insistence on limiting government to those items covered in our original Constitution ignores the fact that the world has evolved quite a bit since 1789, and there are numerous areas of life that have not been covered adequately. A good working constitution is and must continue to be a work in progress.

I think it is apparent we need a strong Justice Department with a broad mission. If they overreach, the checks and balances of the federal courts can strike them down.

Running the government on autopilot
When a working program is up and running, it doesn't require the pilot's attention. The executive and Congress have quite enough to do without continually micromanaging programs that are already working, and are rightly under the purview of the civil service.

What you appear to be saying is that you would like the beginning of every term to be a blank page, with the federal government deciding afresh whether to enact the Clean Air Act, whether to regulate foods and drugs, whether to raise a standing armed service and how to equip it, etc. If you don't understand the chaos that would result, I suppose it would be hard to explain to you.

We wouldn't be able to get very much done that way. And we have a lot of things that very much need to get done.

Too many programs
What I am saying is the government has usurped authority in too many places.

What I want the US government to do is what it is supposed to do by the Constitution they swear to support and defend.

Why does a dog lick himself? Because he can.

Why do police and prosecutors pick the easy crimes to prosecute? Because they can. There is little risk of failure for them and they get to add successes to their record.

If Congress has the authority to give spinach growers some of our tax money it is easier for them to do so instead of trying to resolve major issues like automatic pilot programs that will bankrupt the nation.

The job of the executive branch is to enforce the laws. The police arrest those they believe who violated a law and the prosecutors bring the case before a judge.

If the prosecutor was in the judiciary branch they ultimately would NOT be independent of a judge.

Adding prosecutorial powers to the judiciary, is even more frightening in light of how the judiciary is NOW writing laws across the country.

So you want to eliminate the executive branch as well as the legislative branch and let the judges decide all?


The ***** had an efficient government.

I don't want to pay that kind of price for efficiency.





What Must be done; Is what is needed to be done; but, will it be done.
>>Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other Administration officials have contended that the firings were for "performance" reasons and emphasized that they were well within the prerogative of the president, since U.S. Attorneys are appointees who "serve at the pleasure of the president."

Congressional Democrats (and an increasing number of Congressional Republicans) smell something fishy in some of the firings, whose timings were suspiciously close with impending indictments against prominent Republicans or failed attempts exercise political pressure to bring prosecutions against Democrats for voter fraud.

Further, some contend that Administration officials may have perjured themselves in misrepresenting the nature of the firings to Congress.

I seperated the above in three graphs: For these reasons.

One: An independent group of Qualified lawyers(not associated with ANY Group or persons of/or in politics), Needs to be given(after they pass security checks and balances) authority to obtain or/and retrieve/receive enough documents hard copy/or pc/ or memos/whatever to investigate and decide;[IF the firings was just performance and/or legit legal so].
IF THEIR FINDINGS IS THE FIRINGS WAS FOR OTHER REASONS NON-VALID, THEN; The same ones need to be given same authority or more and allowed to investigate why the firings was not legit/ if they are found not to be.
My definition of qualified lawyers, is lawyers very well informed and knowledgeable of the entire process of how it should have been done.

Two: The department that handles cases where indictments concerning politicians or against republicans and/or against democrats, has been infringed, or corrupted, or trampled upon, needs to step in immediately and investigate all concerning this, and prosecute accordingly and to the strictness so deserved by any found wrongful.

Three: The possible perjury by one or many, must be investigated enough to determine if perjury was done or not. If perjury is found, It must, must be handled strongly and without delays.

Since I do not believe these above will be done. I do not put trust in the gov's anymore..

decrimininalizing politics
Good article. I am disgusted that so many cynical students at Garden City HS in the 1990's accused me of opportunism in standing for Election To The House of Reps. 4th Federal Dist,NY State on Republican and RTL party lines, and "using my brother's death" on Pan Am Flight #103 to "get elected". There has still been no US Special Ops to bring War Criminal "colonel"Gaddaffi into custody to answer for tens of thousands of deaths over 37 years, and no forcible removal from power by a Libyan National. Co-Conspiritors of Iran and Syria have not been taken into custody either for their Terrorist Activities, and there should be ICE enforcement of those with expired working papers of Middle Eastern descent with links to terrorist networks also. I am presently the NC Executive Committee Chairman to The Constitution Party, and need volunteers to end the abuses of power of this administration, and future administrations also. Thanks in advance for your time and cooperation in protecting Victims' Rights, Survivor's Rights, and American civilian and military from the short-sighted provisions of the so-called "Patriot Act", and pray that Geneva Conventions are enforced overseas to help the American Troops, NATO Allies and Coalition of The Willing to serve honorably in their Mission.

Huh?
From "Lasting relief is needed"

"So for all those past reasons, and all the future reasons waiting to unfold, I would support a speedy end to the cabinet position of Attorney General. That office should be above politics, and an independent office within the judiciary."

From "A strong and independent Justice Department"

"And the AG should be an elected official."


Can you explain to me how an elected AG would be above politics? The premise seems rather unlikely

Reasonable expectations...
In the past I have argued that lying is normal social behavior. The government has secrets. Sometimes those secrets are so well kept that some of the players do not know enough about what is going on to be certain that they should admit to anyone (including the Congress or the FBI) what they knew and when they knew it. If refusing to answer questions would betray the existence of a secret then the party being questioned might feel compelled to tell a lie.

Prosecuting someone like Lewis Libby for lying regarding matters he might reasonably have assumed he did not understand fully when there was no underlying crime violates our natural right to lie. He was clearly doing his job as we all fully expect someone in his position to do it.

Now, instead of doing their jobs, officials inside the government are trying to get at one another politically by putting people into positions where they are very likely to lie about something. Almost anything. Then the target can be indicted for the lie itself. They did this to Martha Stewart. They did it to Bill Clinton. This method is abusive and the practice is out of control. Of course, the media enjoys such foolishness. Therefore, no one seems to be telling the government to "cut it out and get back to work".

On the other hand, the opposition party must have some bone or toy to chew on all the time. As long as the administration can keep the Gonzales matter alive their opponents might not feel compelled to go get into more trouble.

An independent attorney general
"Can you explain to me how an elected AG would be above politics? The premise seems rather unlikely."

I'd be glad to. No high federal official is going to be completely above politics. But he or she can be made to be above the reach of much undue influence if he is not appointed at the pleasure of the administration.

Having separate elections for the post of AG would make such a person independent-- and thus more readily available if the need ever arose to prosecute wrongdoing in either the Congress or the Executive. So the better term would be "independent" rather than "above politics".

If the White House felt they were in need of their own, personal prosecutor they could certainly be granted one. Hell, why not give the House and Senate their own prosecutors while we're at it. But we do need a federal AG who is as incorruptible as can be managed.

I don't disagree with the independent concept but...
I think a better approach would be to move 90% of what the Feds do back to the States. I'm inclined to the notion that the problems we're seeing in Washington, in all branches of government, is that the structure was not designed for current distribution of power.

Those that administer government need to be closer to those that they allegedly serve. Our current configuration provides little to no accountability at the Federal level.

I'm still baffled as to why the States gave away their power to the Feds. Hmmm... perhaps I should ask how much the Feds paid the States for the power?

All hogwash
Lack of accountability to anyone with authority is the current problem with our government; especially the courts and DOJ. While I would like to see the DOJ independent from undue pressure from all three branches, you can't du that without also limiting accountability.

I agree that the current system sucks, but your idea would be even worse.

I would perfer disbanding the Supreme Court and the court System, and replacing it with a system where Judges can not be lawyers, and their oath forces them to adhere to a traditional understanding of the Constitution and the laws. Failure to adhere to the basic principals set down in the oath will result in criminal charges and immediate dismissal.

Now sic the DOJ on the judges!

Another change I would like to see is getting rid of our "adversarial" system of trials as it now exists. the system could easily be re-vamped to one where finding the truth is paramount, not arguing the case. I think this begins by forcing prosecutors to have real and sufficient evidence to bring a case. Since grand juries will forward charges against a ham sandwich, this system needs to be changed.

this would be a great start
and I agree.

how many Clinton?
Didn't he fire all of them in his time? Oh wait a minute, that's different according to liberals.

What is really happening...
This article is pretty spot on.

While Roy has his conniptions over the "appearance" of wrong doing, there has been no evidence of such. The lawyers fired seemed to be more victims of bruised egos than any kind of corruption. This is an attempt by partisan politicians to get their most hated person, Rove, on the stand, again, in order to see if they can get him on something, anything, to justify their hatred.

The whole point is that these people serve under the President and he can replace them whenever he wishes. It is a part of our Constitution and the law of the land. All this stupidity of changing the Constitution to accommodate one's political opinion will not change the fact that Bush can fire these people if he wishes and need not give any reason what so ever.

If this is to change then you should be writing letters to your representives to push forth legislation to amend the Constitution because if this goes to the Supreme Court it will go in Bush's favor.

All that being said, the Bush White House has not handled this very well at all. If I were Bush I would kicking some asses out of my administration for giving the Democrats a big MSM stick to beat them with.

Down with government
Far be it from me to argue with a lunatic. But it is certainly within the purview of Congress to order a federal probe if they have evidence of malfeasance on the part of an independent Justice Department.

Also, I believe a majority on government now understand that there is more going on in the country than just the enforcing of those specific mandates laid out in the Constitution. When it was said that the job of the government was to enact and carry out the laws described in that document, it did not include the words "and government is forbidden to do more!" Government has grown and evolved. It now does quite a number of things we find to be necessary... things not even envisioned by the FFs.

The nation has come to the common sense conclusion that some part of our governmental apparatus must conduct all the affairs we find necessary to the furtherance of a full life, that can't easily be done by the individual. One such is the education of our young.

Most folks rightly consider people of your persuasion to be flakes, and dangerously irrelevant to our way of life. Now don't jump on me, that's just the opinion of Mr and Mrs average American.

Don't believe it? Bring your soapbox down to the center of town this Saturday, and tell everyoe assembled that the adversial system of trials needs to be abolished. See what kind of response you get.

Pulling the rug from under the states
"I'm still baffled as to why the States gave away their power to the Feds. Hmmm... perhaps I should ask how much the Feds paid the States for the power?"

Good question. In the tug of war between states' rights and federal power, the states have been coming up short these past few years. How'd the feds do that?

Mostly, I think, through devious tricks they've played with funding. They have the power to deficit spend, while the states must issue bonds to do that. That's a constraint.

Also, every time they monkey with the tax code they do things that modify the adjusted gross income. Trouble is, that's the line on the federal return most states use to base their own state income tax on. So when the feds reduce reporting under the AGI, which they did in the 2002 reform, the states found themselves with a smaller revenue base. And the only way to adjust for the loss would be for state legislators to push for unpopular remedies their enemies will describe as "tax increases". It's a problem innate to political maneuvering, and was thought up by some really bright (and really devious) people.

Education has largely been swindled out of state control, for instance, with the masterfully Machiavellian No Child Left Behind. The feds can withhold funding for states that don't jump through their hoops, reversing a time honored tradition that primary education is the exclusive pruview of the school district, with some state oversight.

Now our kids get to be measurably as dumb as those in every county in the nation. Good teachers have no place to teach, as every hour of every day is taken up with teaching to the Test-- those famous EOGs that decide whether the school itself passes or fails.

Some states are turning down the federal funds, finding it to be more important to pay extra and retain control over how their kids are taught. All of them should feel that way.

Roy: the Voice of America
>"Most folks rightly consider people of your persuasion to be flakes, and dangerously irrelevant to our way of life. Now don't jump on me, that's just the opinion of Mr and Mrs average American."

Considering many of your dangerously irrelevant opinions and ideas it is amusing to see that you consider yourself to be a good judge of what opinions Mr and Mrs Average American hold.

Too funny.

I think your time frame is a bit too short
The feds had control of the education dollars long before NCLB. All NCLB did was to change the focus of the control and drastically increase the stakes.

I'm sure you recall the 55 MPH speed limit. The States were forced to comply or lose the highway dollars. Seat belt laws? Comply or lose highway dollars. DWI alcohol limits? Reduce "impairment" levels to the specified number or lose highway dollars.

I'm thinking it goes back to at least the Depression and the massive public works projects. As an example, the nation as a whole derived no particular benefit from the Hoover Dam, yet the nation funded it. No doubt backroom deals were struck, you agree to fund my project and I'll agree to fund your project. That's not necessarily a bad thing but eventually you get to the point where the nation is funding extremely dubious projects of very questionable merit. We reached that point long before Bush took office (or Clinton, or Bush, or Reagan, etc).

Now we have a political class, and a large segment of voters, that thinks it's a good idea to build a sports stadium as long as other taxpayers pay for it. We'll fund the enterprise with hotel, rental car and conference center fees that will paid largely by out-of-towners. We'll vote to have other people pay for our stuff and we'll proudly tell everybody that *we* built the stadium.

Meanwhile the State politicians are banning light bulbs, the county politicians are using federal highway money to repair county roads, the local politicians are banning trans-fats and smoking, and the Federal guidelines for Medicare are poised to bankrupt many states.

The Democrats blew it on this one!
The Democrats should have complained that they did not fire the prosecutor who granted immunity to the drug smuggler rather than the border guards who shot him.

But I guess that would not have gone over well with their drug using constituents.

I must apologize. It is not nice to make fun of the mentally impaired.

America speaks
The opinion I was commenting on was this:

"I would perfer disbanding the Supreme Court and the court System, and replacing it with a system where Judges can not be lawyers, and their oath forces them to adhere to a traditional understanding of the Constitution and the laws. Failure to adhere to the basic principals set down in the oath will result in criminal charges and immediate dismissal."

I know you share this opinion. So I invite you to peform the same experiment. Take your soap box down to the public square this Saturday, get on it and announce this opinion. See what kind of response you get from the crowd.

Om election day my neighborhod runs about 70 percent Bush-Cheney. And even here you would be laughed off the premises.

Ain't it awful?
That's politics for you. You can always count on Joe and Jane Citizen to vote for taxing the next guy over.

Here in NC our pols are too cowardly to ever hike municipal taxes. What they do instead is to annex more territory out beyond their borders. Thus all us country folks become the unwilling citizens of whatever burgs we hoped to be free of. Note that we do not get to vote on the merits of our own annexation. Only people who are already citizens of the town do. They speak quite openly of augmenting the tax base.

Read it they way you will
I did not say abolish, I said get rid of it "as it now exists." In other words, change it. Make it more about finding out the truth than about which lawyer is better. I would never get rid of the jury trial, it is the one consistant thing that keeps some transparancy in our judicial system.

but go on and rant if calling me names make you feel better. BTW, most true average joes would consider you the nutcase; if you talk like you post here.

Roy Bean for Governor of USA
WE need to create a new office in the Whit House.
In the Whit House the Governor of USA is authorized to upon proper reflection to reverse the pugs of the FB's-Federal Boys. In many cases to reverse the quantum leaps of gas that us common folks have to deal with.
The end result would be more state control again.
So,lets hear it: Roy Bean for Governor of USA in the Whit House.

Tying the arms of the law
I guess I missed the subtle distinction between "disbanding" and "abolishing" the Supreme Court. I stand corrected-- you did not say "abolish".

But your system would unnecessarily hamper the workings of the law. Please spare me the justifications for doing nothing not contained in the Constitution, I'm all too familiar with them. But as a practical matter we should be able to make laws to regulate any behavior we think should be controlled.

Let's take child abuse. Suppose the first case appearing before your new, improved Supreme Court is that of a child molester. The Chief Judge squints down the page at the indictment... and at length says

"Sorry. I can't seem to be able to find a thing in the Constitution about this. I think we're stuck."

An inconsistent approach
You stand for a fundamental reform that cannot be accomplished. "Make it more about finding out the truth than about which lawyer is better. I would never get rid of the jury trial, it is the one consistant thing that keeps some transparancy in our judicial system."

Any system that allows a gaggle of average joes to decide the guilt or innocence of the accused is going to have, directing the action, advocates who play shamelessly on their knowledge of the fallibility of the human spirit. In other words clowns who make their living on innuendo and cheap oratory, and who can stage manage the emotions of people wholly outclassed by them in the matter of native wit.

What comes out the great funnel of justice? OJ.

Here here
I segment that commotion.

Ah, now I get your arguement
It is whatever you make it. You were decrying by saying I would "Abolish" the jury system before, which I never even implied. Now you think I said abolish the supreme court when I said to disband the present court and replace it with judges who are not lawyers and have a revised oath of office.

First off, you disband it because all the judges on the court are lawyers and that, to me, is a conflict of interest. It is like having the former coach of the Pittsburgh Steeler referee all their games. Judges need to have some understanding of the law and legal training, but they don't need to be, and shouldn't be, lawyers.

Second, the Supreme Court, in the example you gave, would only decide of the acused rights were violated and if the case had a Constitutional aspect, even with the present sitting court. So their decision of whether or not to hear the case, and the scope of their decision, wouldn't change.

Try again roy, this is total cr@p.

can always count on citizens of the town openly of augmenting the tax base.
[[You can always count on Joe and Jane Citizen to vote for taxing the next guy over.
Thus all us country folks become the unwilling citizens of whatever burgs we hoped to be free of. Note that we do not get to vote on the merits of our own annexation. Only people who are already citizens of the town do. They speak quite openly of augmenting the tax base.]]

Roy, and [all]

Yes, we can count on the mr. and mrs. knows its'; To do what is right for them-already citizens. They do not really care that the growing majority of low income stays as criminals and becomes criminals because they-we can no longer aford to be legal.

Try taking a minium pay job-two of them that works you less than fourty hours; so they-the employers can stay clear of paying for benifits, out from under the umbrella of the labor laws to a big degree, and on and on;
Which causes the majority of the low income people to live outside the law making them-us as criminals because they can no longer afford to pay rent/buy a place, utilities, car insurance, city and state and federal-all types of fees, sale tax, property tax, car ownership tax, the entire tax base, then food, and gasoline, and gas to heat or cool other than the utility gas, and on and on and on.

Well, there is good news for them and us. The day is coming when we-the industrial countries will cease to be. Because they will no longer be able to support us-by the government entanglement programs, and we will nolonger be able to support ourselves. What a mess that is going to be. It is sooner than people realize.

Then you should listen more often
I agree that Pauled is way off the mark here. I don't really understand how one can be well versed in the law and not be a lawyer. What is the difference between being a Judge who is well-versed in law and a Judge who practised law? I believe this is merely the misperception that all lawyers are weasels and liars and only interested in winning.

Which, I must add, I have absolutely no problem with. The person chosen to represent your interests should do all within the law to represent your interests no matter what their motivation.

The Constitution has the ability to grow and it has been wrongly interpreted numerous times. It has been used as a healing balm as well as a vicious weapon. But that is due to the nature of humanity, not the intent of the words written. The intent was to keep government from intruding on individual freedoms which were to be the law of the land.

I don't think we would be well served by abandoning the judicary in favor of "Justice" or "Truth". The definitions of those terms are too vague. What matters is law and the balanced way to approach the creation and dismantling of them as outlined in the Constitution. It isn't perfect nor do I expect it to be but nothing created by humans is.

Yet I still have to laugh at Roy taking on the role of the voice of Mr and Mrs America considering a majority of his views.

It gets better and better
Now you're making sense. So a prerequisite for sitting on the Supreme Court should be having a general unfamiliarity with the law. Hm.

For what it's worth, we have no requirement now that a Supreme Court judge have any sort of legal background. The president could get the guy who trains his hound dogs for the job. But I'm not sure we should go the extra step and prohibit them from having a legal background.

Just look at the kinds of problems that ensue when some idiot decides he's going to represent himself, and don't need no lawyer. These guys drive the judges crazy. Can you imagine if the entire SC was composed of no one but these numbnuts?

So while we're at it, shouldn't the AG and the prosecutorial staff also be nonlawyers? Wouldn't we be getting a better brand of justice if they reflected the POV of, say, bricklayers? Or lawn care specialists?

I would pay good money to see you up on your soap box, explaining all this to the crowd in the public square.

Criminalizing ordinary life
You've said a mouthful there. There is a level below which you can not afford to do all the things you are supposed to do and be a citizen-- rent a home, pay taxes, etc. And if you're unable to rise above that income level you have very little choice but to get into crime. There are just no jobs out there paying a living wage you can get yourself hired for. Selling drugs is a favorite occupation for people in this situation.

In the old days when nations built up an inconvenient number of unemployed young men like this, they would have a convenient war. European and Asian history are full of examples of wars with no ulterior cause other than to get rid of people they can't use. For that matter, the Flower Wars of pre-Columbian Mexico were the same kind of thing-- wars to reduce population.

But we don't do it that way any more. Kids who want to escape the ghetto by joining the service often don't qualify for the armed services either. So instead of hiring them to do just a little something, and paying them $16K a year to keep their noses clean, we wait until they screw up. Then the state pays $25-32K a year to house them in correctional institutions. Which are just colleges for criminal behavior. And when they graduate, we let them go again.

If I were the king I'd do that a lot differently. I'll bet you would too.

Way off the mark?
I will agree that it probably can't be done with a seemless transition and to the satisification of all. But the judge part could!

1-JUDGES-Judges at the city, county, just-of-the-peace level are very often not lawyers. In fact there is no requirement that a judge has to be a lawyer and, until the past 100 years, a good many were not. When you get to the "district court" or "Superior court" level, it would be nice to give all judges a several month course on proper procedure, basic legal mumbo-jumbo (otherwise known as "legalese") and their proper role in the courtroom. A good law library and a para-legal researcher should be on every judge's staff.

But I maintain that anyone who graduates from law school should be excluded from serving as a judge, same with anyone who passes the bar in any state. I know many feel that a lack of this kind of education should keep one out of the legal system, but I firmly disagree.

A judge's main job is to render judgement on motions, hearings and the course of trials. Having reading and comprehension skills are a must, as is an understand of precident and how it applies; but you don't need a law degree. Judgement is the main skill and, we hope, good judgement. That is never guaranteed whether you have a degree in law or underwater basket-weaving; or are an 8th grade graduate. Some people seem to have good judgement skills at an early age, others develop it with maturity; but many never develop good judgement and analysis skills ever.

Changing the judges and the court system, especially the Supreme Court, will take time. But it could be done with little or no interuption of the processes.

2-THE SYSTEM-Not so changing the legal system!! Here we agree fully, it is a pipe-dream to expect a realistic change to a system that is more interested in finding the truth than in trying to "win". Still, I would like to see a realistic attempt.

Too many innocent people are run through the system, and a few are even convicted. (Though the present system does work the vast majority of the time and most are not) Either way, the end result is a lot of expenses, lost wages and their character and "good name" will always be questioned from that moment forward. Almost as bad are the number of true predatory criminals who get off because of a good lawyer and procedural error. Lawyers should not have that ability and, unless the error is an actual violation of their Constitutional rights by cops or prosecutors (in which case they deserve to walk), errors should not determine a criminals disposition.

This is something that it seems like there has to be a better way; but you are probably right in feeling there isn't. I just think the present system is too damaging to the innocent that come in contact with it and too often allows the guilty to go free on a technicality.

BTW, I don't in any way disparage those involved in the system, all do a tough and sometimes thankless job. Some of my best friends are cops, judges and lawyers and I respect them all. (but lawyers tell the best lawyer jokes!!)
I would like to see the system be more responsive to the public, better able to handle the caseload and better able to do its assigned job.

Getting closer, but still missing the target
Back to the supreme's, they should be drawn from the federal appellate judges; they should come from the federal and state court judges.

Beginning with lower court judges, you bring in people, perhaps just out of college or even High School, to work as low-paid clerks. They are given basic training courses on the specific duties of judges and how to reference case history and precident. After, say, 4 years as a clerk, they can apply for a judgeship on a bottom rung court. To get the position they must pass a basic skills test and then be appointed or "hired" for the job. If hired, they spend the first three months in a specific training program to give them basic skills in ethics, courtroom decorum, rules for objections and lawyer tactics and basic duties and obligations. All judges who handle trials or appeals should be given a staff that includes a well-trained para-legal researcher and a very good law library.

All judges for district/superior courts, appellate courts and the Supreme court come up through the ranks. U.S. Supreme Court Judges must come from the ranks of the federal appellate courts.

Judges and lawyers have very different jobs and require different skills. In my opinion, one of the reason our justice system has so many problems is that it is entirely staffed by lawyers.

Human nature
Sadly, the reason we have a system of advocacy, where one team lies for the defense while the other lies for the prosecution, is that that is in our simian natures. We are more comfortable with a conflict model.

Far better would be a system where the judicial team would attempt to uncover material facts that affect the case, and in time issue a verdict after weighing the balance of the evidence. But that would require a different sort of being-- one to whom the truth was paramount, and not the narrow self interest of one party or the other.

I'll ask you the same thing I asked Pauled. The holy writ says nothing, so far as I know, about child predators. Is it them possible to legislate laws against them? Or do we have to allow them, because our Constitution does not permit prosecuting them?

Re Mr and Mrs Main Stream Voter, my views do differ materially from those of the majority of people. But I am very familiar with the way they think. And they would certainly think the both of you were a couple of flakes.

They would think I was a dangerous radical. But of course, you and I know that's just not the case. :)

BTW I know you're wondering about this. I use protective coloration. In my social contacts locally I appear to be quite normal, and in fact enjoy a good reputation in these parts.

Here come de judge
I'll say this for you. Your methodology couldn't possibly produce a worse collection of judges than those we already have. Taken as a group, one couldn't find a lower class of people on God's earth. They are well below dope dealers. Every person I know says the same thing. Judges they've known have been perfectly horrible-- the absolute worst kind of people you could select for the job.

That said, some are okay. I'm just commenting in general. As a group, predictably, they are much taken with the idea of possessing the power of life and death over other people.

I would be much happier with a board of independent lawyers grading the work of the prosecution and defense teams. That would be better than what we've got now. Drawing a bad judge can really ruin your life.

Actually I can agree with your last paragraph
At leat some oversight would be better than we have now. But why lawyers?

But, as to the rest, all I can say is "and they are all lawyers" (except the JPs).

Really, I know a lot of judges at several levels. They are all very good people who take their job seriously and want to get everything right. But they are lawyers!! Their decisions are all based on the illogic this is often the law; God forbid they were corporate tax lawyers!!!

Really, a little common sense is all it really takes to be a good judge. Learn the rules (and they have little to do with learning law) and apply those rules to the situation as presented. Judges are really nothing more than "binding arbitrators" of legalese and courtroom referees.

Let the machines crank out justice!
The scary thing is I believe you. You probably know a lot of judges and think they're fine people. And they might be the same people I've had dealings with and find them to be abominable choices.

On the other hand you have a bad opinion of lawyers. And I'm not sure that quite computes. Aside from their cynical amorality, and their single minded worship of Mammon after losing whatever they may have had of youthful idealism, what's not to like?

Or, from another vantage point, you say judges should be familiar with the law but not lawyers. And the only people I know who fit that bill are those who've washed out of law school. This would imply your judges have legal minds less nimble than those who plead before them.

At any rate, there's no reason we should leave the law to lawyers, or plumbing to plumbers. Let's just mix it all up. We could let someone new, chosen by the lottery, be president every six months. What the hell. :)

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