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Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Stupid Statement of the Week

With all the natural disasters, bloodshed and personal tragedies being reported in the news recently, one looks for some sense of guidance and protection from the institutions of government and justice to lend, at least, a sense of sanity to our lives.

Sadly, as is usually the case, one need only peek at the news to have those hopes dashed.

Yesterday a New York jury rendered a verdict of 'not guilty' in the closely followed case of an off-duty New York City police officer who shot and killed a man during a traffic confrontation.

I won't waste your time rehashing the case which has been closely reported at length in the news.  I don't even have an opinion on the outcome of the case, since I didn't follow it very closely.

What gave me pause was the bizarre statement to the defendant delivered by the judge immediately after the jury had delivered its verdict:

“Only you know what exactly happened out there. So no one’s passing any judgment, and let’s try to hope that we have no further incidents like this in the future. I guess that’s the only thing I can hope for.” [emphasis mine]

Um, actually, your honor, someone is passing judgement!  That's sort of the point of the exercise.  Your job title actually has the word 'judge' in it, so your dumm@ss statement isn't really what one could call an understandable mistake.

In today's hyper-politicized atmosphere where many have either lost faith in the the rule of law (bad) or taken the law into their own hands (worse), it falls to the pillars of the system - the elected leaders, legislators and jurists  - to try to restore the public's confidence in the infrastructure, reliability and essential goodness of the system. 

I get that there are many cases where a judge may not agree with the verdict rendered by a jury.  And in fact, in extreme cases where a jury has clearly ignored evidence or instructions received from the bench, a judge may even set aside a jury's decision in favor of his/her own. 

But by making an asinine statement like..."no one’s passing any judgment", after such a fraught and controversial trial outcome, Justice Jeong has abdicated his role as 'grown-up in the room' and has essentially joined the faceless mob outside the courtroom screaming that the system doesn't work and that there is no Justice in America.

Memo to Justice Alexander B. Jeong:  The U.S. legal system isn't perfect (what system is?).  But if you, as a representative and practitioner of that system show such disdain for it that you can say ..."no one’s passing any judgment", it won't be long before the mob will take your message to its logical conclusion and begin passing judgement of their own.

Posted by David Bogner on November 7, 2017 | Permalink

Comments

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[M]any have either lost faith in the the rule of law (bad) or taken the law into their own hands (worse)

It is not worse when the people take the law into their own hands.

When the gold rush began in California, the population of San Francisco exploded from 1,000 to 200,000. The police force did not grow with the population. The number of cops that kept order for 1,000 were inadequate to police 200,000, most of which were young, male, and full of vim. People were dying in the streets.

In answer, the good folks of San Francisco organized the first Vigilance Committee, and that's where we get the word 'vigilante'. They kept order -- of sorts -- with quick violence and rough justice. Hung a dozen or so to do it. The knobs of San Francisco brought in some help and the Vigilance Committee stood down. A few years later, things went to hell again, and the second Vigilance Committee sprang up.

The purpose of the courts is to dispense law. The purpose of the cops is to keep order.

Posted by: antares | Nov 7, 2017 9:36:14 AM

antares ... You have a flaw in your logic. You seem to be saying that it is not worse for people to take the law into their own hands because in the past the system recovered from two such periods where the system was inadequate to dispense justice adequately.

First of all, the example you provide is not a good one because California was admitted to the union in 1850 before all of the infrastructure and trappings of American government and law & order could be established there. Then as the gold rush quickly swelled the population far beyond the ability of the existing system to administer, the 'committees' you mentioned took up the slack.

The problem with your analogy is that there is nowhere in the United states where any similar lack of law and order infrastructure exists today. In fact, if anything there are many who would suggest that the agents of order (the police) have too much power and are not adequately kept in check by the agents of law (the courts).

What you were talking about is people taking the law into their own hands because of a power vacuum, not because of any lack of faith in the system itself.

What exists today is not power vacuum but rather a lack of confidence that the existing power will act justly, or perhaps at all. Working outside a functioning system is not vigilantism (in the literal sense), it is anarchy. As you have aptly pointed out, they are not necessarily the same thing.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Nov 7, 2017 9:58:32 AM

Trepp,

You have two flaws in your argument.

I was not making an argument. I was telling you that history says the people taking things into their own hands is not that bad. The Vigilance Committees disbanded of their own accord both times.

You are the one who said it was worse for the mob to take matters into their own hands. My retort was historically that ain't so.

The second flaw in your argument is that you are trying to think your way through it. Does not work. Never has. Never will. The life of the law is not logic. It is experience.

You cannot reason your way forward, because people are motivated by emotion, not by logic. In human affairs, the crap we call logic is post facto rationalization.

The logical thing for the sogenannte Palestinians in Gaza to do is to beat their swords into plowshares and farm that strip. That way lies wealth. You think they're gonna do that?

Posted by: antares | Nov 7, 2017 11:10:46 PM

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