U.S. judge brands system corrupt
By Joe Baker, Senior Editor
A federal judge, speaking at Harvard Law School last month, declared the American legal system is so corrupt that it is barely recognizable.
Judge Edith Jones of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, in Houston, Texas, told the Federalist Society at Harvard that the question of whats morally right is sacrificed to what is politically expedient. Legal philosophy, she said, has descended to nihilism.
The integrity of law, its religious roots, its transcendent quality are disappearing. I saw the movie Chicago with Richard Gere the other day. Thats the way the public thinks about lawyers, she said.
The first 100 years of American lawyers were trained on Blackstone, who wrote that: The law of nature dictated by God himself is binding in all counties and at all times, no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all force and all their authority from this original. The Framers created a government of limited power with this understanding of the rule of lawthat it was dependent on transcendent religious obligation, Jones said.
This is not a prescription for intolerance or narrow sectarianism, Judge Jones declared, for inalienable rights were given by God to all our fellow citizens. Having lost sight of the moral and religious foundations of the rule of law, we are vulnerable to the destruction of our freedom, our equality before the law and our self-respect. It is my fervent hope that this new century will experience a revival of the original understanding of the rule of law and its roots.
The answer is a recovery of moral principle, the sine qua non of an orderly society. Post 9-11, many events have been clarified. It is hard to remain a moral relativist when your own people are being killed, she said.
Judge Jones said that in the early days of the Republic, lawyers were held in high regard and were vital to restrain the potential tyranny of the majority.
Some lawyers may still perceive our profession in this flattering light, but to judge from polls and the tenor of lawyer jokes, I doubt the public shares (de Tocquevilles) view anymore, and it is hard for us to do so, she said.
Judge Jones said further: The legal system has been wounded by lawyers who themselves no longer respect the rule of law. An increasingly visible and vocal number apparently believe that the strategic use of anger and incivility will achieve their aims. Others seem uninhibited about making misstatements to the court or their opponents or destroying or falsifying evidence. When lawyers cannot be trusted to observe the fair processes essential to maintaining the rule of law, how can we expect the public to respect the process?
The judge also pointed to the overuse and misuse of lawsuits as a means of social change.
We see lawsuits wielded as weapons of revenge, she said. Lawsuits are brought that ultimately line the pockets of lawyers rather than their clients. The lawsuit is not the best way to achieve social justice, and to think it is, is a seriously flawed hypothesis, said the judge.
While the historical purpose of the common law was to compensate for individual injuries, this new litigation instead purports to achieve redistributive social justice. Scratch the surface of the attorneys self-serving press releases, however, and one finds how enormously profitable social redistribution is for those lawyers who call themselves agents of change, said Jones.
Judge Jones wondered: What social goal is achieved by transferring millions of dollars to the lawyers, while their clients obtain coupons or token rebates?
She quoted George Washington, who said in his farewell address, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths in courts of justice?