Judicial independence is threatened because self-satisfied courts & lawyers don't listen, don't explain, don't adapt to public's needs

So says Jesse Rutledge of the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Virginia, based on the Center's annual surveys of public opinion about the courts, and decades of working on how the courts interact with the population:

"It’s really easy to blame efforts to erode the independence of our courts exclusively on shrill politicians or the fragmented news media. ... With all this outside pressure, is it any wonder that public trust in the courts—the stock and trade that underpins the ability of the courts to be independent—continues to erode?

"Unfortunately, those of us on the inside of the system may have myopia. ...  The data shows that Americans who have had direct interactions with courts trust the judiciary less than those who haven’t. Put differently, those who come to our courthouses aren’t as impressed with what they see as we are with ourselves.

"... Courts must take swift action to improve customer service, simplify forms and processes, and move as much of their routine business online as is practicable for their community. Americans perceive judges and the lawyers who appear in their courtroom as sharing an interest in delay, and at the same time an increasing number feel they are being shut out of the legal system entirely. Simplifying byzantine forms and procedures could go a long way to allowing more people to help themselves. ...

"Americans are sending a clear message about their courts. They don’t need another lecture on the virtues of jury service. Instead, they want courts that are accountable, connected to their communities in meaningful ways, and where they are able to take care of routine business expeditiously. Court users—whether they are litigants, jurors, or those seeking to pay for a traffic infraction or to file a simple form at a clerk’s window—should be placed in the middle of every equation, not treated as an afterthought."

Supporting independent courts—from the inside out


Shocked by cheerfully ignorant, arrogant decision-making? Not if you've seen a judge learn family law on the job.

There was a lot of interest on social media in 's analysis of how President Trump deals quickly and authoritatively with issues he admittedly knows nothing about.  was thunderstruck at how monstrously dangerous it was to have major decisions made in cheerfully-admitted ignorance, by what the decision-maker thinks is simple common sense. But as a family law attorney, I really couldn't tell any difference between the President's performance and watching a judge who's new to Family Law, trying to puzzle out why the law seems to want both parents involved in a child's life after a breakup, why unwed fathers have the few rights they do have, etc. Or what the Hague Convention on child abduction is for, and what in the world is wrong with a mom taking her children halfway around the world just to get them far away from the father. Or the times I've watched Supreme Court Justices do the same thing as they debate the Hague Convention, or paternity law, assume the validity of wildly wrong speculations about what happens in custody litigation, and snort with equal contempt at the parents in these cases and the Congress that passed such seemingly pointless laws and treaties. Even experienced trial judges sometimes just reinforce their bias and irrational rules-of-thumb over time. 

Here's the Trump version of this routine:

SHERIFF AUBREY: And the other thing is asset forfeiture. People want to say we’re taking money and without due process. That’s not true. We take money from dope dealers —

THE PRESIDENT: So you’re saying – okay, so you’re saying the asset-taking you used to do, and it had an impact, right? And you’re not allowed to do it now?

SHERIFF AUBREY: No, they have curtailed it a little bit. And I’m sure the folks are —

THE PRESIDENT: And that’s for legal reasons? Or just political reasons?

SHERIFF AUBREY: They make it political and they make it – they make up stories. All you’ve got to do —

THE PRESIDENT: I’d like to look into that, okay? There’s no reason for that. Dana, do you think there’s any reason for that? Are you aware of this?

[Then-acting Attorney General Dana Boente]: I am aware of that, Mr. President. And we have gotten a great deal of criticism for the asset forfeiture, which, as the sheriff said, frequently was taking narcotics proceeds and other proceeds of crime. But there has been a lot of pressure on the department to curtail some of that.

THE PRESIDENT: So what do you do? So in other words, they have a huge stash of drugs. So in the old days, you take it. Now we’re criticized if we take it. So who gets it? What happens to it? Tell them to keep it?

MR. BOENTE: Well, we have what is called equitable sharing, where we usually share it with the local police departments for whatever portion that they worked on the case. And it was a very successful program, very popular with the law enforcement community.

THE PRESIDENT: And now what happens?

MR. BOENTE: Well, now we’ve just been given – there’s been a lot of pressure not to forfeit, in some cases.

THE PRESIDENT: Who would want that pressure, other than, like, bad people, right? But who would want that pressure? You would think they’d want this stuff taken away.

SHERIFF AUBREY: You have to be careful how you speak, I guess. But a lot of pressure is coming out of – was coming out of Congress. I don’t know that that will continue now or not.

THE PRESIDENT: I think less so. I think Congress is going to get beat up really badly by the voters because they’ve let this happen. And I think badly. I think you’ll be back in shape. So, asset forfeiture, we’re going to go back on, okay? I mean, how simple can anything be? You all agree with that, I assume, right?

Watching Donald Trump Try to Puzzle Out What ‘Asset Forfeiture’ Means Is Deeply Discomfiting

By  in New York Magazine

See also, for example,


Adultery Constitutionally Protected, Mustn't "Stigmatize", Federal 9th Circuit Rules

Perez v. City of Roseville, as described in:

Ninth Circuit: Adultery Is Constitutionally Protected

The court holds that Lawrence v. Texas limits government restrictions on extramarital sex.


On First Looking Into Posner's Opinions, and Finding One Where He Didn't Exactly Hit a Homer

From Passing the Bar: Poems to Learn the Law By, by John Crouch

Negligence — The Offhand Formula

McCarty v. Pheasant Run, Inc.

826 F.2d 1554 (U.S. 7th Circuit 1987)

Held, by the Foremost Jurist of his Time, and an Admirer of Rustic Scenery, that if a Lodging-House have a Secret Door, affording Convenient Ingress to Sundry Villains, then So Be It; inasmuch as Caveat Emptor, Mercatum Non Potest Peccare, etc.

FACTS:

One evening a conventioneer checked into her hotel room,

not wanting any view, she said, just a quiet place-to-dwell room. 

She didn’t open her curtain, though it was six o’clock,

and she assumed it cloaked a window — not a door, which was unlocked! 

Through which an intruder entered, beat her and threatened rape.

She fought him off successfully, but he made good his escape.

He took her purse, and left her bruised and emotionally distressed,

for which she sued the inn, which had afforded her no rest.

POSNER, C.J.:

When you check into a resort hotel, you go inspect the view.

At least I know that’s the first thing that all reasonable people do.

I’m  not too busy to do that, so I’d like to know who is.

I guess my meager résumé would sure be dwarfed by his.

If this Philistine had moved the curtain, she would have seen the door,

affording access to a walkway, for that’s what it was for.

And reasonably, when she went to bed, she’d make sure and lock it.

So why should the cost of her negligence be paid from Defendant’s pocket?

Must the maids or clerks make sure it’s locked each time someone checks out,

just to safeguard the virginity of one thoughtless layabout?

Must they pay  someone to do this, when each reasonable guest

will repeat their labor, anyhow, when laying down to rest?

It would not be economical. Thus the costs it would prevent

must be shouldered by the victim of this improbable event.

_______ 

Note: 

[1]This case shows the dangers involved when a judge merely uses his own experience and tastes as the measure of “reasonableness,” in contrast to the Carroll Towing case, which is based on a review of numerous cases imposing various requirements in similar situations, and also looking at custom and usage in the industry. But in Judge Posner’s defence it may be pointed out that it was originally the jury, not a judge, who decided that it would not be reasonable to require hotels to make sure that such doors are locked.


Is family-court duty cruel & unusual punishment for judges who cuss out criminals?

<<According to the Tribune, Sacks “has long had a reputation for delivering strongly worded rebukes from the bench.” He was reassigned for four months to domestic relations court in 2004 for what the Tribune describes as his “profanity-punctuated lecture” during a sentencing hearing.>>

Judge's sarcasm was 'unwarranted and wholly inappropriate,' appeals court says