The American Legal System Sucks

Jury SummonsI hate jury summons.  They used to be pretty easy to deal with, I’d put down that work didn’t pay for jury service and I’d get excused.  Whether this was true or not was largely irrelevant to me.  Now, they don’t give you the choice to get out of it, you have to waste your time sitting around for at least a couple of hours before they just let you go.  Honestly, I usually wonder how they could ever put out a bench warrant for me not showing up when they can’t even prove I received the summons, they don’t send it certified.

To be honest, it is a waste of my valuable time sitting around in a waiting room, knowing I’ll never be called to sit on a jury.  In all the times I’ve ever done this, I sat on my ass for 4 hours, then they called my group and said go home.  I’ve never even walked into a courtroom to be questioned by lawyers and honestly, even if I did, no lawyer in their right mind wants me sitting on the jury.  I actually  give a damn who is guilty and who is innocent.  I am not easily manipulated.  In other words, the defense lawyer will throw me out immediately with the prosecution lawyer helping to carry my legs.

The real issue is that the American legal system, as it currently stands, really does suck.  It, like the political system, isn’t about facts, it isn’t about reality, it’s about spin.  How can one side spin what the other side is dishing out?  Don’t get me wrong, I’d actually love to be involved with a system that doesn’t cater to the lowest common denominator, but that’s not the system we have today.  You have two different sides that aren’t really interested in justice, they just want to win.

The prosecution, of the two, is probably the most defensible in this.  They set up the case and decide, before filing the paperwork, if they think they have enough evidence to win.  If they don’t, they simply do not file and the individual goes free.  During the trial, if it becomes clear that their case wasn’t as strong as they thought, if their evidence doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, they have the option to simply drop the charges and end the trial.  While there are certainly abuses of the system we can point to, in general, I think the prosecutors are in the best position to actually carry out justice.

The defense, on the other hand, I find to be largely scummy.  It is their job to get their client off.  They are not at all concerned with justice, if they find, during the course of the trial, that their client is absolutely guilty of the charges levied against him, they cannot and will not throw up their hands and say “we were wrong, take him away!”  Their existence in the courtroom is not predicated on being able to demonstrate that their client is innocent of the charges, only in convincing twelve idiots in a box to acquit.

And then we come to the jurors.  Trust me, I just spent a couple of hours in a room stuffed full of them.  Seriously, if you were on trial, would you want to be stuck facing 12 people who were too stupid to get out of jury duty?  It’s not hard to understand why people don’t want to serve.  First off, you are forced, under penalty of arrest, to show up against your will, to stand in long lines that make Disneyland look like a walk in the park, to be stuffed into a room like sardines with people you would never, ever associate with willingly.  In my case, I ended up between a black guy with a mohawk who spent the whole time talking to himself and a guy who, once he rolled up the sleeves of his jacket, had track marks on both arms.  Yes, it’s the druggies and the crazies that end up in these rooms.  Secondly, they just don’t want anyone on the jury that has any kind of knowledge or expertise in the case, they want jurors who are stupid and gullible and easy to manipulate.  If you stand up and say you have a college degree, especially in anything remotely associated with the case, you’re out on your behind.

See, what I think ought to be done is that we eliminate both the prosecution and the defense and just have one group that are after the truth.  They are neither biased for or against the accused, nor for or against the accuser.  Their entire job is to ferret out the truth, produce the evidence and present a case to the jurors that simply lays out the facts and allows intelligent people, who actually want to be there, who are educated and who are not selected for their ignorance and gullibility, to make a determination based on the facts and the evidence and nothing else.  I’m sick and tired of the stage show our courts have turned into.  It’s not justice, it’s a circus.

So yes, I went to jury duty and I sat on my ass for 2.5 hours in a room of 400 sweaty people packed in like sardines.  It took them more than an hour just to check in all those people, and when they were done and posted the lists of people in each group, 3 out of the 5 groups were immediately and summarily dismissed.  Thanks for wasting my time.  The inefficiency of the process is as ridiculous as the process itself.

Is it any wonder nobody wants to serve on a jury?

14 thoughts on “The American Legal System Sucks

  1. I've served on a jury before, waste of freaking time. The worst was at the end of the day. The day ended at 4:00, and the actual trial finished up at 3:00. If we could deliberate fast we could finish in 1 day, the dude was so obviously guilty I figured we could squeeze it in. The judge decided to blather on for 10 minutes about the 2 charges the guy was up for, and the deliberation room was a 5 minute walk away. So we get to the room at 3:15. 5 minutes later the bailiff comes back in and tells us the judge wants to talk to us again. So we walk back to the courtroom and get there at 3:25. What was this important message? Well the guy was up for 2 charges, and we had to agree which one he was guilty of, we couldn't have half the jury say yes to one and half say yes to the other. The stupid thing was one charge was a lesser version of the other, so this was an impossibility anyway. Then the judge says it's too late in the day and to come back tomorrow. I was pissed. Deliberations the next day took all of 10 minutes. I gotta say, I was pretty shocked at how poorly our courts are run.

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  2. I used to live in MA, and jury summons functioned the same way there as it does for you. But…here in MN…it is brutal. Luckily I have not yet been summoned. Here is how it works. You get summoned for anywhere from a week to a month depending on the county! On the first day, you actually have to show up and do as you described. Then every day for the rest of your term, you have to call in at 8:00 am to see if they need you. How BS is that? People have to cancel all sorts of things to make this work because "you might be needed". It is insane. Oh, and FYI, owning your own business doesn't get you off, it just gets you postponed to a few months from the original summons so you can get your stuff "in order".
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  3. How would you improve the system?
    Do away with juries altogether?
    Make jury service optional?
    Let people buy their way out?

    I find it amusing that someone who has never actually served on a jury is willing to pontificate on it.
    Any other parts of the U. S. Constitution you'd like to do away with because you find them annoying interruptions to the life you are free to live here?

    1. Actually, I'd rather see professional juries, people who are trained to look at evidence logically, who are well-versed in a variety of common legal subjects, etc. At least they'd want to be there! And it's ridiculous to say that someone must want to do a thing to know that it's bad. I've never been shot in the head but I'm pretty damn sure I don't want to be.

      1. As a practicing criminal defense attorney, sworn to uphold the Constitution I could not disagree with you more vehemently. We have enough innocent people in prison as it is. I labored for six years in the juvenile 'justice' system where juries were not allowed. For the last 25 years I have defended adults who have access to juries. There is a completely different level of proof in practice, tho' not 'in law' when the defendant has a jury vs a judge, a 'professional' trier of fact.

        Juries are much more intelligent and savvy than you give them credit for, but what would you know, having never served. Refusing to serve on a jury is equivalent to using the public roads and education system; benefiting from the defense of the nation and of the local police, yet refusing to pay the taxes required to make it possible.

        Your rant is an example of the very 'Stupidity Wherever It Hides' that you claim you want to expose.

        1. Driving on public roads and not paying taxes? You mean like the 47% who don't pay taxes (yes, I know they pay gasoline taxes, but it's damn hard to drive on a road without gasoline, unless you're using busses, which the poor often get to ride for free, yet I don't see anyone complaining about). It isn't me that refuses to serve on a jury, no lawyer on the planet would ever allow me to sit on a jury because I'm not gullible enough to buy absurd "what if" scenarios, etc. I actually care about evidence, not spin. The fact that the jury system hasn't, to date, stuck me in a courtroom, but has simply released me from service, has nothing to do with willingness. Don't pretend otherwise.

          1. Now you claim you are not 'the one who refuses to sit on a jury' yet your rant says the opposite:
            "They used to be pretty easy to deal with, I’d put down that work didn’t pay for jury service and I’d get excused. Whether this was true or not was largely irrelevant to me." This statement even appears to indicate you don't care whether your claim is honest or not. So, you claimed you make an effort to avoid jury service, yet claim you do not refuse to serve.

            You contradict yourself again when you say, "I’ve never even walked into a courtroom to be questioned by lawyers…." Yet you claim lawyers would not allow you to sit on a jury. How do you know that? You've never been questioned. Assuming your answers would be honest, I would not necessarily reject you as a juror. During voir dire I simply ask jurors if they can be fair. Can they follow the judge's instructions? Can they presume my client innocent? Will they hold the Government to its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt? If they think my client PROBABLY committed the crime, but they have a reasonable doubt about it, will they have the intellectual honesty to vote 'not guilty' despite their feeling of 'probably'?

            Yes, you can get out of jury service by lying or by admitting you can't be fair, or can't presume my client innocent. But that would not reflect well on you, would it? What exactly IS your integrity worth?

          2. I'm sorry you're unable to read, it says quite clearly that I've been released when the cases I was sitting for were excused or continued, I couldn't even *USE* an excuse to get out of it because they don't even ask for excuses until you get into a courtroom in front of the lawyers.

            But… I guess that doesn't matter.

          3. Now you make it personal, making an obviously false claim that I cannot read. I simply quoted you saying you never even went into the courtroom. I know how the system works, having been involved in hundreds of trials in courtrooms you confess you've never even entered. You are the one who said, and I quote: "I’ve never even walked into a courtroom to be questioned by lawyers…." You should be happy I never had an opportunity to question you. You are probably correct, you would not have been allowed to serve, but first you would have been humiliated if the statement you make here are representative of the answers you would have given to my questions in court. Perhaps you should confine your rants to subjects you know something about. You obviously know little about the way jury selection works. You also seem to be proud to avoid your civic duty. I have dealt with and talked to over a thousand jurors in my career. Tho' there are exceptions, most serve honorably and do their best to contribute to our system of justice, and are proud to serve.

            We rarely see those like yourself who think they are above the system and do their best to avoid it. Generally both the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense have contempt for their transparent efforts to to avoid their civic responsibility, a position you advocate. They should be held in contempt of court, but are generally let off with simply wasting their time for a few hours, just as you indicate. I have no sympathy for the 'waste of your time' due to your refusal to take your part.

          4. Seriously, do you always take blog posts so personally? You seem to be really, really upset, as though I went out and kicked your dog. Nobody asked for your sympathy and, to be honest, since the vast majority of people who get called to jury duty do their best to get out of it, except for the civil servants who get paid full wages for sitting in a courtroom, the idea that lots of people are happy to serve seems a bit unsupported. After all, for each of the 5 "slots" that were available the day I was there, at least 75 people were assigned to each "slot" and those were all whittled down to just 12 jurors and a few alternates. That seems like a tremendous number of people that are either sent home unneeded, as 3 out of the 5 "slots" were on that day, or whom the lawyers don't want to sit on their juries. Of the 400+ people checked into the jury waiting room that day, at best 36 were seated. Is this an efficient system? I think not.

          5. You avoid answering my questions about how you would make the system better, and try to deflect this issue by becoming personal and trying in to direct the discussion into your claim that I take it personally.
            I am not ashamed to stand up for the Constitution and to excoriate those, like you, who do their best to avoid their civic responsibility, and blame others for your refusal to participate in our democratice institutions.

            You can't take on the arguments, so you make it personal. Fine. I'll play along. YOU are what is wrong with the system. You and those who want to avoid participating in an institution that is at the heart of what it means to be an American. When you beg off and refuse to participate, you leave the process to others who may not care, or who do not bring the critical thinking you claim to represent.

            If your local system is flawed, then do what you can to fix it. Instead you suggest that the jury system should be abandoned because it is beneath your time and effort; that you are above it all. What you apparently are not aware of is that the very strength of the jury system is that people who actually care about justice, such as yourself, citizens of the country keep justice and its administration in the hands of the people who are the final bulwark against the potential abuses of government. When you voluntarily refuse to participate in this great system, you default to the very bureaucracy you complain about.
            _ Danmark

  4. You publish your comments but don't want them to be taken seriously? You attack a basic institution of our representative democracy and expect a practicing lawyer to ignore the attack. Now, what? Your column was a joke you want ignored? Where do you get your facts that 'the vast majority' try to get out of it?
    Whatever the numbers, would that make it right?

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