2017/04/27

Effective judicial oversight

Many complain about judicial corruption and call for judicial accountability, but generally fail to propose effective processes for achieving it.

In an effort to make judges independent of political pressures, they are generally left with great discretion to be used justly or not. In some states they are elected, and come under they sway of the law firms that support them. They are generally under the loose supervision of an "administrative" judge, who has his own docket and can't exercise daily oversight, even if he were inclined to do so. He is usually limited to assigning judges to courts, and can reassign them to no court as a way to get rid of them. Judicial decisions can be appealed, but the appeal process is so difficult and uncertain that the risk of being overturned is small, and can be ignored. Judges are generally not removed for having too many of their decisions overturned, and if they are it is likely to be for making right decisions rather than wrong ones.

There are judicial misconduct boards, but they tend to get so many complaints that they come to dismiss them out or hand, and such boards do not investigate complaints made while trials are still underway.

What is needed are grand juries with agents who can sit in on trials and intervene if misconduct occurs. That would be a major undertaking. It would need to be able to rapidly respond to complaints made during trials in time to be effective, and they could not be visible enough for parties to play to them rather than to their judges. We can imagine having school classes of students assigned to observe trials reporting on any irregularities they might observe, and calling in judicial inspectors as needed.

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