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Chris Sugrue: Fianlly Beat the Bastard

September 14, 2014

Lawyers: Leeches on the American judicial system
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Posted: Thursday, November 19, 1992 12:00 am
Meaghan Amor
Meaghan Amor is junior majoring in English and political science and a Thursday columnist for The Daily Collegian.
My Opinion
They sympathize with you for the pain and suffering you have had to endure. They reassure you that none of it was your fault. They adopt an "I-know-best-you-poor-ignorant-fool" attitude as they shake their heads, astounded that such injustice hasn't led you to act sooner. They make you feel stupid and ignorant for not exercising the rights you never knew you had. Their fingers point accusingly at you from the other side of the television screen as they desperately try to appeal to the greed inherent in every viewer. Pretty soon you are wondering why you had let yourself be treated like this for so long.
Yes, it's the age of the TV-advertised lawyer bringing with him or her promises of peace of mind, revenge and, most of all, money.
I still feel a sense of surprise, tinged with disgust, every time I view one of these lawyers advertising on television. Being taught throughout school and university about the dignity of the legal system and profession, I see something kind of repugnant in so-called "professionals" encouraging people to get monetary revenge for incidents they probably would have otherwise forgotten about.
Certainly, people get ripped off by the system. The legal system is not always the stalwart institution of justice that we may have been taught about in school. To me, stodgy-looking legal practitioners in three-piece suits, preaching on their second-rate television will not provide an answer, though.
The legal profession has always boasted of being just that -- a profession. The courts and their officers are expected to instill a sense of dignity and respect into the system. This dignity gives legitimacy to the system and to the decisions that the courts make. Without this legitimacy, people turn to their own methods of justice.
In my country, a change was made to the Australian Family Law Court aimed at making the court seem friendlier and more accessible to the families and children that it regularly deals with. The justices of the Family Court were no longer required to wear gowns and wigs. In the months that followed this change, a number of Family Court justices were shot by people not happy with the decision that the court had made in their particular cases. It was found that people no longer viewed the justices with the awe and respect that they commanded when wearing their gowns. The people brought before the court lost respect for its decisions and took matters into their own hands.
I am not trying to infer that lawyer's ads are going to lead to their being shot. But, the sense of dignity and respect that people hold for the judicial system is lost as soon as its "professionals" start begging for work on television commercials.
Here, as in Australia, the officers of the courts are held in high esteem. Supreme Court justices are seen by American people as being only second in terms of respect, to the president.
Yet this respect is being tarnished not only by lawyers taking out cheap ads, but also in the way the judiciary is so embroiled in politics.
I was taught throughout school that one of the basic tenets of a democracy was a judiciary seperate and independent of the legislature and executive. It still astounds me that here, Supreme Court judges and judges of most state courts are elected and nominated by the president and endorsed by the Senate. And that their selection depends on their political correctness in regards to issues such as abortion, civil rights and equal opportunity. U.S. judicial appointments depend more on partisan politics than qualifications. In Australia, judges work their way up in the system and are chosen by a body that has no ties with the political sphere whatsoever.
The importance of politics in judicial selection is illustrated extremely well by the appointments made during Ronald Reagan's presidency when 97 percent were Republican, 93 percent were white, 91 percent were men and more than 20 percent were millionaires.
The idea of judicial candidates actually campaigning for their appointment is thankfully foreign to the Australian system, as are the large amounts of money put into such campaigns.
The independent, respected judicial system seems to be losing its respect with such recent events as Judge Wachtner's arrest for extortion of his ex-lover.
Today, stopping at the scene of a car accident can lead to the absurd situation where you can be sued if you do stop to help and happen to give some medical aid, or be sued if you don't. A society that seems hell-bent on getting monetary benefits for situations in which there may not be a truly guilty party, is now being incited by hyena-like lawyers trying to fuel a sense of greed and vindictiveness. The decisions of these cases are being decided by political players rather than by impartial adjudicators and "the great U.S. democratic system" can only suffer as a result.