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Can trial courts transcend assembly-lining without first shrinking the criminal justice system?

14 Sep Can trial courts transcend assembly-lining without first shrinking the criminal justice system?

Here is my challenge to you: Walk into any criminal trial courtroom in the United States, and tell me whether you see the absence of assembly line treatment of defendants.

Even the most well-meaning and kind-hearted judges must recognize that if they do not do something to "move the cases along", they and their fellow judges will face more of a crushing caseload around the corner than otherwise. Judges who do not care are all the more ready to treat the courtroom as an assembly line.

Not only is the criminal justice system so overgrown as to not be able consistently to deliver true justice, but civil cases also add to the courts’ already overly-burdened criminal dockets. What to do? Possible solutions include:

– My true (but too undertried) solution to shrink the criminal justice system includes reducing the number of actions that are crimes in the first place; legalizing marijuana, prostitution and gambling; heavily decriminalizing all other drugs; eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing and the death penalty; and eliminating drunk driving per se rules.

– Find a way to reduce the way that civil cases add to courts’ already-crushing criminal dockets. This must be addressed carefully, because many civil cases are particularly meritorious for challenging abuse of power by government and private parties, and making government more responsive to the people it is supposed to serve. At the very least, such civil disputes as contract disputes between wealthy litigants need to be looked at for charging hefty sums to be paid by the litigants to the courts for often expending over $50,000 to $100,000 of court resources, salaries, and opportunity costs to settle contract disputes between wealthy parties. Effective and just private alternative dispute resolution (binding arbitration and mediation) need not only to be strongly considered by parties in civil litigation, but courts should offer incentives for civil litigants to do so and disincentives not to (starting at least for contract disputes between wealthy parties).

– Judges and all other court personnel need self-discipline, self-searching, and personal growth — and support from the public — to treat litigants as humans (at least the human rather than corporate litigants), and not as numbers merely to process through the mill. Prosecutors must do the same.

What are your ideas for taking courts away from assembly-line processing? 

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