Friday, September 07, 2007

Justice for the rich

Justice in civil proceedings, so it seems, is for the rich and powerful and not the poor and weak. The legal theory sounds so good, two antagonists present their case before an independent judge who makes a ruling. If either antagonist doesn't like the ruling which they are bound not to if they lost, they probably have an opportunity to take the case to a higher court and so on which all sounds pretty fair and evenhanded on the face of it. What my rant is about is that people that have legitimate grievances are sometimes denied justice due to the actual legal system, specifically the costs and time associated with doing anything in a court. Rich people, who generally aren't rich for being stupid, know this and are able to flout laws with poorer or weaker people knowing full well that there is a reasonable chance of getting away with it merely because they know that the poorer people don't have the resources to even engage in the legal debate.

I find it interesting the interaction of the legal system with capitalist society where the price of services is determined by the scarcity thereof. In this example better lawyers are more expensive than poorer lawyers and there are no lawyers for free and of course you can't go to court without lawyers and attorneys to get the justice to which the plaintiff feels entitled.

So what is one to do if one has been discriminated against in some manner and simply can't afford to take it to court? The obvious answer is to fester in silence or, as a last resort, to take the law into his or her own hands. This doesn't right the wrong at all and could just as likely lead to an injustice since there is no guarantee that the plaintiff has a valid case at all.

So our legal system seems to work reasonably well when the two antagonists are relatively equal in wealth and power but as the disparity between the antagonists grows, so does the chances of a miscarriage of justice.

I was talking to someone last week decrying the attitude of poorer elements of our society to the legal system but when they are excluded from the legal system by dint of their circumstances. What do people expect?

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