The Judicial System
Jurors should not be chosen from out of a random sampling of citizens of the community. Being a juror should be a profession that requires a great deal of schooling, just like being a lawyer. A juror should be expected to know a great deal about the legal and scientific worlds so that they know everything about DNA evidence, fingerprints, what the law says, and virtually everything else that is necessary to know in order to make accurate and quick judgments in trials that may cover a wide range of scientific disciplines and legal regulations. Professional jurors should be trained to see right through various tactics employed by lawyers and others who may try to make their cases artificially compelling.
Choosing jurors for a trial should be done at random to eliminate the possible complaint of fixing juries with jurors sympathetic to one side or the other. Since jurors would all be professionals, the prosecutors, plaintiffs, defendants, public defenders, and the general public should be more confident that these trained, intelligent people are much more likely to decide cases fairly without easily falling victim to emotions or other deceitful tactics employed by one side or the other. Perhaps up to 18 jurors should be called for each case so that at least 12 jurors are guaranteed to remain on the jury through the end of the case. Complete reports or profiles of each juror should be made available to the judge and perhaps the lawyers for both sides so that conflict of interest issues or other disqualifiers are known right at the beginning and appropriate measures can be taken beforehand without threatening the integrity of the trial. These reports should include a fairly detailed personal and professional history and also include things like previous cases with which the juror was involved. These records, filtered of any personally identifying information, should also probably be made available to the public.
Felony cases should require a unanimous verdict while misdemeanor cases should require an 11-12 majority (at least 90%) vote of the jurors. Civil cases should require a 10-12 majority vote (at least 80%).
Jurors should be free to choose absolutely any verdict they see fit, as long as it is guided by the law. Jurors should not be limited to simply deciding whether the prosecution’s charges are valid or not. The charges brought against a defendant should only be viewed as suggested criminal offenses. Juries should be required to freely choose absolutely any types and number of charges on which to convict a defendant, regardless of whether such charges are at all related to what the prosecution originally intended on which to convict the defendant.
Peremptory challenges should ideally never be allowed under a system of where a purely random selection of trained, qualified jurors is used because there will always be the option to remove jurors for just cause. However, many lawyers still really think that peremptory challenges are a valuable tool to help please both sides in a trail and its use will likely lead to fewer retrial requests. However, these challenges should be limited to 3 jurors per side.0 Comments
Parties in dispute should first be legally required to discuss and try to resolve the dispute among themselves, of course, before escalating the matter by getting the courts involved. It is also during this stage that all parties should familiarize themselves with the costs and nature of court arbitration and legal proceedings. This will help the parties decide if arbitration or a full jury trial is really desirable or necessary for resolution of the dispute.
If, after this stage, the dispute is still unresolved, the next step would be to go to an arbitration hearing before a group of two or three judges at the local courthouse. Each party would be required to pay a fee of $100 prior to arbitration, but this fee is refunded to the party who receives a ruling in its favor. Any fines assessed to the losing party would be in addition to this fee. In arbitration hearings, the panel of judges would hear all the evidence from both sides and assess the relative merits of each party’s case and deliver a judgment. If the parties accept the judgment without any party appealing, the case has been resolved and closed.
If a party appeals an arbitration ruling, all parties should be required to be educated on the costs and nature of legal court proceedings involving trial by jury, especially for the loosing party. Also, all parties, but especially the losing party, should be given an assessment of the chances of successfully overturning the arbitration ruling. If all parties still cannot agree, then a jury trial should be scheduled.
All legal arbitrations should be done exclusively by an arm of the government (the courts) and never by a private or non-profit organization. Contracts should be prohibited from demanding arbitration services by any other entity. Contracts should also be prohibited from making arbitration rulings binding upon the parties by prohibiting any appeals to further legal challenges or by prohibiting escalation to jury trials.0 Comments
“The loser in a lawsuit must reimburse the winner for an amount equal to the loser’s expenses.” (Jay Johansen, http://www.johansens.us/sane/law/loserpay.htm.) However, this limitation should only apply when the winner spends more than $10,000 in legal costs. In other words, losers must pay winners their entire legal expenses up to $10,000 regardless of how much money the loser spent. If the loser spent more than $10,000, then the loser would be required to match the winner’s expenses up to an amount equal to whatever the loser spent on his own defense, with the only other cap being the amount the winner spent.
In legal proceedings (arbitrations, trials, etc.), when one side definitely and undoubtedly knew of their guilt from the beginning, and that fact is revealed in the course of the proceedings or during some subsequent proceedings (even if the truly guilty party was previously exonerated), then that side should be charged with the theft of an amount of money equal to what has been spent by the other side(s) (including all direct, indirect charges as well as any punitive charges paid so far) and required to pay full compensation plus a punitive multiple of up to several times the total cost imposed onto the other side.
Determining Common Court Costs
The losers in legal proceedings should pay for arbitration or court overhead costs proportionate to the length of the trial (in days), like utilities, court personnel (judges, bailiffs, stenographers, etc.), materials used (paper, copying machines, etc.), building maintenance, etc. Perhaps the formula for determining the proper fee should be based on the total costs of running the courthouse in the previous year. This figure would then be divided by the total number of trial-days for that year (number of trials multiplied by the average number of days each trial lasted) to determine the current level of this daily fee. For example, say a courthouse’s operating costs were $10,000,000 last year and 2,000 trials were conducted in that same year, each with an average length of 5 days. Each trial would then have cost an average of $10,000, but spread over five days, the costs are $2,000 per day. This would mean that a four day trial this year would cost the losing party $8,000 payable to the court. Specific trials which include any large special expenses would naturally have those specific expenses added onto the cost of that specific trial, rather than have such costs dispersed and averaged across all trials that take place at that courthouse. The overall goal, however, is to help make the courts financially self-sufficient.
In addition, the government should be allowed to charge 5% above these total processing expenses both so that it could make sure that all court costs are recovered and so that it can recoup at least some of the incurred common overhead expenses associated with processing other crimes through the criminal justice system for which no criminals have been found or for which criminals are not able to pay.0 Comments
Informants, witnesses, or other people called to testify or who are in any way required to participate in a trial or other legal proceeding should be fully compensated by the government within 6 months for any costs associated with their participation, including verifiable lost income, such as time off from work, transportation costs, etc. Though the criminals would be required to repay the government for all these costs, waiting for them to get around to earning the money necessary to pay them would often take a long time. However, the government would have an incentive to recoup these costs. Victims, witnesses and other participants need to be encouraged to participate in the justice process and quick compensation is a necessary element of such a strategy.
All relevant information should be allowed to be introduced into arbitrations, trials, or other legal proceedings. No restrictions should be imposed that would limit or otherwise control the type or amount of information that any party to a legal proceeding can introduce for consideration. Furthermore, regardless of whether information was gathered legally or illegally by the police or anyone else, that information should still be entitled to be heard if it is relevant or if any party to the case wants it to be heard. Punishing the people who gathered the information illegally should be done, but it is an entirely separate matter, needing its own case and possible trial.
In addition, if information is discovered after the close of a trail that potentially has a reasonable chance of changing the outcome of that trial, the original verdict should be immediately suspended by a judge who has reviewed this new information until it has been properly assessed and processed.
No person should ever be given a second trial unless significant new evidence was found after the close of the first trial that may possibly have changed the outcome.0 Comments
The burden of proof in all legal cases should always rest with the party bringing the accusation. However, both sides should be required to do everything they can to both prove their own respective positions and to help clarify and promote an understanding of the circumstances surrounding a dispute. It should be regarded as criminal behavior to just sit on potentially relevant information or significant evidence that may help in arriving at a just decision, even if this evidence is held by the defense (since it is usually the defense that sits on evidence) and even if it may end up hurting the defense’s case. All parties have an obligation to help each other arrive at the truth.
It is not the prosecutor’s job to convict the defendant and it is not the defense attorney’s job to defend their client. It is everyone’s job to make sure that the truth prevails, which means that it is everyone’s obligation to introduce all relevant evidence that has a bearing on the case. It is everyone’s job to strive for the most efficient path towards a just resolution of the matter.
Many of these ideas come from Erwin Chemerinsky in an article he wrote in July, 2014.
Panel for Selecting Supreme Court Vacancies
A representative panel of experts must be created for the purpose of selecting merit-based candidates to fill the vacancies on the Supreme Court. The President should then be required to choose individuals approved by this panel for the selected vacancy. Perhaps, this whole process from the point when the seat is vacated to the point when it is filled should be required to take no more than 180 days.
Prospective Justices Must Answer Detailed Questions
Prospective supreme court justices should be required to answer detailed questions regarding their views on any issue that may come before them, though obviously not how they would vote in specific cases. Currently, it is customary for them to refuse to answer any questions on issues that might come before them.
Supreme court justices should be appointed for single, non-renewable 18-year terms so that vacancies will occur every two years. This will reduce the average length of tenure, ensure that vacancies are regularized, and increase the chances that the views of the justices are more in line with conventional or contemporary views.
Recusal and Replacement
The decision for a Supreme Court justice to be recused from a case should be made by a majority vote of the other justices or a panel of federal court of appeals judges.
If a justice is disqualified from a case, a retired justice should be chosen at random to participate to complete the group of nine to hear a case. If no living former Supreme Court justice exists, then a federal judge should be chosen from a panel of highly qualified judges.
Panel for Selecting Federal Court Vacancies
A representative panel of experts must be created for the purpose of selecting merit-based candidates to fill the vacancies on the Supreme Court and the federal courts. The President should then be required to choose individuals approved by this panel for the selected vacancy.
While it is perhaps understandable why we would want Supreme Court nominees to go through a political approval process through the legislative and executive branches of government, it is not apparent that a similar process for choosing federal court judges is beneficial. With nearly 1,000 positions to be filled, the potential for constant political interference between the various political parties and the various government bodies that need to coordinate between themselves, is such that it is all too easy for the process to get snagged by some ideological objection by one or a few members within the chain of approval.
It would be best to have these federal judges just apply for the job and have a committee review all the applications and choose the most qualified ones. If political leanings are an important consideration, then perhaps a long questionnaire could be created and all applicants would be required to answer all questions in it. If it is designed right, the questionnaire would fairly accurately assess the applicant’s position on the political spectrum. This questionnaire, in combination with the use of a weighted lottery system, would facilitate a ‘balanced’ selection process over time. To select from within this pre-qualified pool of applicants, a random lottery would be held every time an absence needs filling.
Federal Judge Workload
Federal judges should have workloads that do not exceed 365 cases per year. If workloads in any jurisdiction exceed this threshold, more judges should be added for the following calendar year. Perhaps this proposal on determining the correct levels of personnel given the workload would be the fairest way to determine the number of federal judges necessary.
For both Supreme Court and federal court appointments, the time between the beginning of an absence until the time it is filled should be no longer than 6 months. If it exceeds 6 months, the parties responsible for the delay would have their pay withheld (without interest) and be charged 1% of their average annual pay every day until the vacant position is officially filled.0 Comments
Legal discovery in civil, criminal, and virtually all other cases should be virtually unlimited between all parties. All the truth should be shared between all parties. It doesn’t necessarily always need to be before legal proceedings have begun (although it usually should be), but all evidence should be shared by the time the relevant legal proceedings have concluded.
Insurance companies should have the right to engage in almost unlimited discovery as well as the right to ask virtually any question (including about a person’s genetic information) as long as the searches and questions are potentially, or have a significant possibility of being, related to the insurance purpose or function.0 Comments
Any party should be allowed to sue any other party without any limitations. Parties should be allowed to sue any other party vertically or horizontally across any hierarchical structures, across any political boundaries, and without restrictions of any kind. People could sue animals, Martians, or the Moon if they so desire. Of course, they will be required to pay all court costs since they are likely to lose such cases. Contracts should not be allowed to limit people’s right to sue in any way.0 Comments
Prosecutors should be paid based on a percentage of the restitution levied on the guilty party. The idea is that suspects should be charged with all of the crimes that the evidence seems to suggest was committed by the defendant rather than only prosecuting the defendant with only the most solid charges and dropping the lesser ones. The tendency for prosecutors to over-accuse people of crimes they did not do or for which they have insufficient evidence will be tempered by the fact that any prosecutor (or prosecuting party) will be fined with a punitive multiple several times any total amount a falsely accused person would have been required to pay if found guilty.0 Comments
Normal civilian court systems should be used for as many trials involving military personnel as possible. Court martials should be used rarely and preferably only in cases where confidentiality for national security purposes is required. All court martial proceedings should be classified. Security clearances should be obtained by jurors, lawyers and any other people directly involved in the case or who are required to listen to the case. Certain government officials including some elected officials like the President and certain members of the Senate should have access to court martial proceedings.0 Comments
Neighborhood government organizations should be designed to function with the primary purpose being to resolve neighborhood complaints, disputes, and irritants. Their goals would be to hear and arbitrate (legally binding) all kinds of minor neighborhood nuisances, and neighborly complaints such as excessively barking dogs, noisy air conditioners, loud music, ugly yards, vegetation intrusions onto sidewalks, graffiti, junk visible from someone else’s backyard, etc. Such an organization would be the legal party that notifies the offending party of the offense and require it to implement a resolution or face escalating fines.
This organization would also serve as a method for allowing complaints to be filed anonymously so that residents and property owners could feel freer to file complaints without risking a backlash from the offending party.0 Comments
There should be a grace period (perhaps 7 to 14 days long) given to all people in legal proceedings in which they would be allowed to change their answers to any question with only half the penalty that would be applied after the grace period expired. This may also apply to people questioned by police. After the grace period expires, any lies would submit the liars to the full force of legal punishment. This grace period, however, cannot extend beyond the close of a trial.0 Comments