THE STRATEGIC LAWYER + + + politics.::. get the jist.::

Access to Justice: a Grim Account

Just read this piece in the NYT re delays in the Bronx around criminal prosecutions. Like so many such commentaries about the justice system in the US, it presents a chilling portrait of a dysfunctional system in desperate need of resources and reform (oh, and if you haven’t read this piece about the prison system, it’s worth the time–for me, it framed some of the key issues in grim, deeply resonant terms).

And yet, it’s a nightmare of a situation because the entrenched institutional culture hinted at in the brief excerpts of interviews and the attitudes of those involved in the work, is one of complacence, cynicism, wilful ignorance and presumably, at some point in each of these individuals’ careers, a loss of hope. This in turn means that even if:

  1. funding is magically produced from some mysterious source; and
  2. policy is miraculously implemented that somehow strikes that perfect balance between expediting the processing of the cases while still maintaining fairness of process (though at this point, fairness of process seems to have been long-discarded, between long waits in prison by potentially innocent individuals, and the deterioration of evidence because of delays which hinders convictions);

there is still the matter of institutional and individual buy-in. Reforms are only as good as the people who are implementing them–the ones on the ground who are doing the day-to-day work.  If they aren’t buying, then no matter the plan, no matter the resources, the system will likely fall back into the old patterns, because it’s easier to fall into old habits.

And let’s face it: shorter hours in court, days off for birthdays and picnics, Thursdays and Fridays off from trials and other lackadaisical standards… that’s a lot to ask a cynical cog in the legal juggernaut to give up. In order for people to be willing to relinquish all that, to work harder, to actually accept a system in which they have less, and are inconvenienced, you have to sell them on hope and on the viability of the larger vision that they can be a part of.

All of which, at this point, is evidently in desperately short supply.


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This entry was posted on April 14, 2013 by in Access to Justice, Policy, Rights.
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