And the hell with the law.
September 26, 2006 4:33 AM   Subscribe

New York Justice. Because every woman needs a good pounding every now and then.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great (106 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 

“I just follow my own common sense,” Mr. Buckley, in an interview, said of his 13 years on the bench. “And the hell with the law.”


Oh, my....
posted by pax digita at 4:41 AM on September 26, 2006


This is a three-part series, here's part two.
posted by sohcahtoa at 4:43 AM on September 26, 2006


Jeez...this is ridiculous. And I thought I lived in a progressive state up here in NY. Apparently we city folk live worlds apart from the upstaters, our own bonafide northern rednecks. Who knew? (That's rhetorical, snarksters.)
posted by unwordy at 4:50 AM on September 26, 2006


Is this kind of stuff happening in other states too?
posted by pax digita at 5:00 AM on September 26, 2006


Is it just me or is the solution not self evident? Make all judges be lawyers.
posted by furtive at 5:06 AM on September 26, 2006


I saw this yesterday. I'm glad I don't live in NY.
posted by rxrfrx at 5:06 AM on September 26, 2006


quote from the beginning of the article "It is impossible to say just how many of those justices are ill-informed or abusive."

therefore the times will do a three part series about it and imply that they ALL are.

Is it ratings week?

I'm willing to bet that the number of incompetent, immoral, dishonest justices isn't any different than the number of incompetent, immoral, dishonest (insert professional title here).
posted by HuronBob at 5:34 AM on September 26, 2006


HuronBob: True -- but a dishonest, immoral, and incompetent architect can't put me in jail for 8 months...
posted by Reto at 5:37 AM on September 26, 2006


This happens in Pennsylvania too, although I can't speculate if its as low-brow as it apparently is in NY. I've been to court in a small town outside Pittsburgh to dispute a traffic fine, which I still believe I was innocent in. The judge in the po-dunk little strip mall excuse for a court room literally screamed at me for bothering his court by showing up and never let me say one single word. There wasn't even a representative of the local police that had fined me there to speak on their behalf, I was guilty before I walked in there.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:42 AM on September 26, 2006


True -- but a dishonest, immoral, and incompetent architect can't put me in jail for 8 months...

He could, if he was also one of these justices!

posted by antifuse at 5:44 AM on September 26, 2006


HuronBob: As far as i can tell, it is harder to become a plumber in New York than it is to become a justice.

More importantly, it appears that there is almost no state-sponsored training to teach these non-lawyers how to understand and practice the law.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 5:47 AM on September 26, 2006


This is what newspapers should be spending their time on, not running endless thumbsuckers on The Future: Threat or Menace? and reviewing the latest TV dreck. What an eye-opening piece; I lived in New York for almost a quarter century and had no idea about this. I've been reading about the tsarist days in Russia, when the peasants had no access to the justice system and were dependent on the whims of the local landowner, who could do whatever he wanted; these New York idiots don't seem to order people flogged, but there are lots of similarities.

“Granted, there is mistakes...”


Granted. And I hope this inspires a cleanup, but somehow I doubt it. Thanks for the post, Resurrected Taco.
posted by languagehat at 5:48 AM on September 26, 2006


“Officially a part of the state court system, yet financed by the towns and villages, the justice courts are essentially unsupervised by either.”

It’s the Mayberry version of our shadow government. How quaint!
posted by Smedleyman at 6:05 AM on September 26, 2006


I especially enjoy the ignorant judge describing laws he doesn't like as "unconstitutional".
posted by StarForce5 at 6:09 AM on September 26, 2006


"This is what newspapers should be spending their time on"...well, I'm not sure that this is the most pressing issue in our country right now..but, hey, I could be wrong about that.

Reto... nope, he can't put you in jail, but the consequences of poor work by an architect could be significant. How about doctors, lawyers, policemen, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, boy scout leaders, ministers, soldiers, legislators, presidents...oh, wait, there's one for ya.... Let's do an article about incompetent, immoral, and dishonest presidents...

My point was this. EVERY profession could be examined like this resulting in pretty much the same article being written. This piece feels like the sensationalism I see on the evening news during a sweeps week.
posted by HuronBob at 6:22 AM on September 26, 2006


I especially enjoy the ignorant judge describing laws he doesn't like as "unconstitutional".

Hell, describing *constitutional rights* he doesn't like as unconstitutional.
posted by verb at 6:23 AM on September 26, 2006


HuronBob: Every single profession you listed has tougher prerequisites, more training and more oversight.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 6:24 AM on September 26, 2006


Taco...what's the training requirement for legislators and presidents... and, what good is oversight if it is ignored...anyway, i think you're missing my point(s)...hell, I might be missing my point(s)... In which case, further discussion is..I guess...point(s)less.
posted by HuronBob at 6:28 AM on September 26, 2006


well, I'm not sure that this is the most pressing issue in our country right now

HuronBob, you may not realize this, since you don't live anywhere near New York, but the New York Times is not, in fact, the United States Times. It is a local paper as well as a Paper of National Importance, and for many years New Yorkers have complained that they don't do enough local coverage. Frankly, this is a serious enough story that a national paper should be covering it, but a New York paper should be all over it, covering it the way the Washington Post covered Watergate, keeping at it until the lazy, greedy, corrupt pols actually do something about it.

My point was this. EVERY profession could be examined like this resulting in pretty much the same article being written. This piece feels like the sensationalism I see on the evening news during a sweeps week.


But then again you clearly don't have a clue as to why this is important, so I don't know why I'm wasting my breath talking to you. Maybe one day you'll get hauled into court for no good reason and find yourself deprived of liberty or possessions without legality or recourse, and then you'll wake up. For now, enjoy your naptime.
posted by languagehat at 6:33 AM on September 26, 2006


My grandmother lost all of my grandfather's heavy equipment (more than six figures worth of heavy equipment and tools) after he died because a small town judge ruled "you're not going to use it, so what do you need it for?" and turned it all over to his pals in the local good ol' boy network (they were "business partners" of my grandfather--basically, con-artists my grandfather had the misfortune of falling in with in the later years of his life). I was raised by my grandparents, and my grandfather was the sole wage earner in our family; I was a college student at the the time. The equipment the judge gave away represented the bulk of my grandfather's estate and it all disappeared just like that, because of some prick small town judge. These systems need a serious overhaul.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:40 AM on September 26, 2006 [3 favorites]


"EVERY profession" should be examined like this, HuronBob, its faults and defects exposed to the light of day for all to see. That our shame should eventually outweigh our inertia is historically one of the only ways we actually rouse ourselves to improve situations like this.

That's what investigative journalism is for.
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:40 AM on September 26, 2006


Languagehat... I see it like this. Articles like this are a distraction. They keep us focused on the minutia, we get upset about traffic tickets and small idiots in small jobs. There are a million minor tyrants that impose their will on our lives day in and day out. They do it in traffic, as clerks in the stop and go, as small minded neighbors, as bullies and as thieves, to name just a few.

You, too, missed my point.

Look around..you've already been deprived of your liberty and possessions, by people much more powerful than these idiot justices... but... enjoy your nap.

And, comparing this to Watergate...you've got to be kidding...
posted by HuronBob at 6:41 AM on September 26, 2006


this happened in florida, btw.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:41 AM on September 26, 2006


I hope California doesn't have any equivalent problems like this. (I'm sure it does...I'll go check.)

Good night, and good luck—New York.
posted by Colloquial Collision at 6:42 AM on September 26, 2006


I think a lot of people genuinely believe this sort of thing only happens in the South.
posted by four panels at 6:50 AM on September 26, 2006


This happens ALL OVER the country. Not just in "basement" courtrooms, but in full-blown courthouses.
posted by tadellin at 6:50 AM on September 26, 2006


"every woman needs a good pounding every now and then"

I agree.
posted by LoopSouth at 6:55 AM on September 26, 2006


I think a lot of people genuinely believe this sort of thing only happens in the South.

Once you get out of the city by a couple of hours, New York state is the south. Rusty pickup trucks and country music, cornfields and rednecks. Isn't there a blue/red map of the state somewhere?
I type this from my chair in Saratoga Springs NY. You should go to some of the county fairs up around here. Absolutely scary at times.
But, I will offer up this opinion. I don't think this type of issue is confined to upstate NY. I would think people in positions of authority always run the risk of abusing said authority.
posted by a3matrix at 7:02 AM on September 26, 2006


This is terrifying... I expect things like this in Mississippi or Arkansas (and I've seen them) but this is like some serious Planet of the Apes shit in the same state as Manhattan. Fucking yikes.
posted by squidfartz at 7:03 AM on September 26, 2006


While the article is eye-opening, I cannot say that I am that surprised. Once you get far enough from the city/ any major city and out into the country, things are different. I've lived in NY all my life, and while the bulk of it was on suburban Long Island, I'm upstate now. If I drive for an hour or two, there are communities that are straight out of Deliverance. Seriously.
Even closer, there are small-town cops with chips on their shoulders waiting for passers-through to go 31 mph, and judges that will back up their "boys".
Fortunately, I live in a college town that is known for being open-minded and civil, so issues like this aren't as likely, I don't think.

Still, I'm happy to see the Times doing a local-interest article, and I hope something good may come of it.
posted by exlotuseater at 7:10 AM on September 26, 2006


on preview not previewing at all, what a3matrix said.
posted by exlotuseater at 7:11 AM on September 26, 2006


Courtrooms with no transcripts or public records? No access to trial by jury? We are (rightly) up in arms about the removal of what we thought were basic legal rights from those who have been swept up in the War on Terror, but actually what they're dishing out in Guantanamo and secret sites in Eastern Europe turns out not to be too far removed from justice back home in the Empire State. Wow.
posted by nowonmai at 7:19 AM on September 26, 2006


I think, however it comes - as long as it goes!
posted by gamerfreak at 7:26 AM on September 26, 2006


saulgoodman, that's so sad - and really maddening. I hope your gran got past it. I've also never heard of these courts, despite having lived in NY (although the city) for the best part of a decade. Thanks for the link, tacos.
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:45 AM on September 26, 2006


Is there any legal remidy against these judges? If they lock someone up who they shouldn't, can they be charged with false imprisonment? Can they be held liable in a civil case in cases like saulgoodman's?

Maybe it's just naivete, but I feel that there should be some sort of legal recourse against these judges besides a slap on the wrist from the oversight agency.
posted by Hactar at 7:49 AM on September 26, 2006


Once you get out of the city by a couple of hours, New York state is the south.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:53 AM on September 26, 2006


Unfortunately, most (bad) things done by judges are shielded by "judicial immunity." And getting rid of judges can be tough. Usually there's a process for investigating and disciplining judges, but not one that is effective.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:58 AM on September 26, 2006


LoopSouth: ""every woman needs a good pounding every now and then"

I agree.
"

Methinks you've confused "good pounding" with "brisk rogering" (or whatever it was the crazy kids in MetaTalk call it these days).
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:59 AM on September 26, 2006


Oh shit. Now that Bush knows about these guys, he's got his next pick for the Supreme Court. Thanks a lot, "New York Times".
posted by hoborg at 8:02 AM on September 26, 2006


Perhaps this is what Ann Coulter meant by "local fascism."
posted by jonp72 at 8:03 AM on September 26, 2006


Clearly we should leave injustice to the experts.
posted by davy at 8:04 AM on September 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


“Is there any legal remidy against these judges?”

Or some relief from the ruling? Is there some way to appeal?
posted by Smedleyman at 8:04 AM on September 26, 2006


>> Once you get out of the city by a couple of hours, New York state is the south.

> You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Roger, MrMoonPie.
posted by davy at 8:09 AM on September 26, 2006


Is it just me or is the solution not self evident? Make all judges be lawyers.

That sounds reasonable, but it may not be practical in Mayberry RFD (Right From Deliverance), where maybe you can't find a lawyer, or at least not one who's willing to hear these crap cases for almost no money.

I'd start by forcing them to digitally record everything and put it all online (at state expense). If all they've got is a little corner desk, then fine, have a camera pointed at their little corner desk and the people involved. At least put the audio online, so anyone can go back and listen to it and send it to state authorities if there's a problem. Just recording it and making it available to everyone, even if no one actually did anything with it, would probably reduce the sneaky shit by a mile.
posted by pracowity at 8:10 AM on September 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


"My point was this. EVERY profession could be examined like this resulting in pretty much the same article being written. This piece feels like the sensationalism I see on the evening news during a sweeps week."

Y'know, that's just bullshit. You either didn't read the whole fucking article, or don't have the cognative abilities to see why this is a problem.
This is the law fundamentally failing, and doing so in a way that should remind you of the reason the Bill of Rights was written. Do teachers lack this sort of supervision and training? No. Do teachers have this level of direct power? No. Do doctors lack this sort of supervision and training? No. Do architects lack this sort of supervision and training? No. Do they have this level of direct power? No.
This is a fundamental lack of justice and, because you're either too stupid or too fucking jaded, you're dismissing it as "sweeps week"?
From small injustices, large injustices grow. And local politics matters much more in terms of direct implications for people's day to day lives.
Go take that nap. Try to wake up smarter.
posted by klangklangston at 8:10 AM on September 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


What about appeal courts? Not that getting justice at a higher level would lessen the fundamental problem in general, but you guys make it sound like some sherrif in the woods has the final say in you going to prison.

(No snark, I'm genuinely interested.)
posted by uncle harold at 8:14 AM on September 26, 2006


Wow, I had no idea this sort of stuff was still going on. How can there really be so little oversight? Do these small-court judges get paid for this?
posted by arcticwoman at 8:15 AM on September 26, 2006


saulgoodman, that's so sad - and really maddening. I hope your gran got past it.

thanks--i'll spare you the details of how the story ended.

i did encourage my grandmother to pursue whatever other options were available, if any--there either weren't any or she just didn't have the heart to fight the decision; i was just too young and removed from reality to know what to do.

it's all good, though. i'm just glad to see these kinds of abuses finally at least getting some attention.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:16 AM on September 26, 2006


I'd love to hear M_J, dios, and any of the other MeFi law contingent comment on this. Is there some sort of batlawyer signal we can use to drag them in?
posted by Richard Daly at 8:17 AM on September 26, 2006


Inactivist Judges!
posted by srboisvert at 8:17 AM on September 26, 2006


allkindsoftime:

This happens in Pennsylvania too.

The rules are somewhat similar in PA, yes -- district justices don't have to be lawyers, and are elected by the people, and many of them are locals who, for one reason or another, happen to get their names in the newspapers a lot, and so have name-recognition working for them when they decide to run.

Speaking as (a) a former central PA journalist and (b) someone who routinely fights speeding tickets, though, I've never seen anything as bad as the stuff mentioned in this article. Most of the DJs I've encountered have been professional and courteous. The training process, I think, is more stringent and demanding. One of the DJs I knew as a journalist was even too classy to dress me down after he overheard me making an off-color joke about his name (which was, seriously, "Dick Wilt").

Which isn't to say I'm surprised at your experience. Penn's Woods west of Philly is the reddest of the red; I feel like I've seen more Confederate flags there than in the South, and idiocy and the good-old-boy netword abound in local government (and media).
posted by hifiparasol at 8:18 AM on September 26, 2006


Damnit, by M_J I of course meant M_B, which is to say, monju_bosatsu. Too morning.
posted by Richard Daly at 8:27 AM on September 26, 2006


for uncle harold (from the article):

Nearly a century later, a 76-year-old Elmira man who contested a speeding ticket in Newfield, outside Ithaca, was jailed without even a warning for three days in 2003 because he called the sheriff’s deputy a liar.

“I thought, this is not America,” said the man, Michael J. Pronti, who spent two years and $8,000 before a state appeals court ruled that he had been improperly jailed.


and

for articwoman (from the article):

When they stray badly, the Commission on Judicial Conduct — a panel of lawyers, judges and others — can do little more than try to contain the damage.

Some 1,140 justices have received some sort of reprimand over the last three decades — an average of about 40 a year, either privately warned, publicly rebuked or removed. They are seriously disciplined at a steeper rate than their higher-court colleagues.

The Office of Court Administration, which runs the state court system, makes little pretense of knowing much about what happens in the justice courts. Beyond their names, ages and addresses, it has little information about the justices. Because they are paid by the towns and loosely tied into the court system, “we have limited administrative control, and very, very limited financial control,” said Jan H. Plumadore, the deputy chief administrative judge for all courts outside New York City.

posted by concreteforest at 9:06 AM on September 26, 2006


klangklangston:

yes, I read the article.
no, I'm not napping right now.

I've had my own " bad justice of the peace experience", I've got little tolerance for it.

Did YOU read the article? Did you catch the quote at the very beginning that says ""It is impossible to say just how many of those justices are ill-informed or abusive."

That, my friend, was my point. The author states that he has no idea how his implication that the justices are "ill-informed or abusive" applies to the group in general... so, my question to YOU is, isn't this sensationalism? Isn't this just like the evening news report during sweeps week that tells us we're all gonna die for this reason or that?

Note, I didn't say that shit doesn't happen, I didn't say that the ones that do the shit are good people...I'm just saying that if an author puts that type of disclaimer at the beginning of the article, how much weight should it carry?

And, if you can't see how this "fundamental lack of justice" is insignificant when compared to the rape of this country that is being done on a daily basis by those with much more power, then you've got your head in a hole (or someplace just as dark). Which wrong do YOU want to correct?

Thank you, however for your rant, I hope you feel better.
posted by HuronBob at 9:14 AM on September 26, 2006


Did someone seriously suggest the more judges should be lawyers???? That's the problem with the courts today. It's one big "good old boy" network of lawyers.
posted by tadellin at 9:18 AM on September 26, 2006


I thought this was a great couple of articles, and I'm looking forward to part 3.

By way of comparison, town justices in the UK (where they are called magistrates) are also non-lawyers, but they have a legally-trained clerk of court who sits in on the cases and gives them advice on legal issues.

I think that solution has benefits over requiring justices to be legally qualified. It brings the same legal rigour to proceedings, while still allowing the whole range of local people to put themselves forward as justices.
posted by athenian at 9:23 AM on September 26, 2006


Town and village justice courts info.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:31 AM on September 26, 2006


if you can't see this "fundamental lack of justice" is insignificant when compared to the rape of this country that is being done on a daily basis by those with much more power, then you've got your head in a hole (or someplace just as dark).

Or maybe we all have our heads in the "New York/ Region" section of the paper.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:34 AM on September 26, 2006


Once you get out of the city by a couple of hours, New York state is the south.

That's the second time in this thread that the implication's been made that the City is free of this kind of thing... but all of that Knapp Commission / Frank Serpico stuff from the 70's certainly makes it look just as bad, back then at least. And Frank Serpico continues to bring up police corruption every few years...
posted by XMLicious at 9:39 AM on September 26, 2006




Wow. It's like one of those rape couts in Waziristan.
posted by Artw at 9:49 AM on September 26, 2006


All right, all right.. You've all convinced me.

I'm getting tacos for lunch.
posted by Balisong at 10:00 AM on September 26, 2006


exlotuseater..

Of course, you're absolutely right. No injustice should be ignored. I do think, however, that some triage is often called for. I guess I feel that media can distract us sometimes, and sometimes even mislead us.
posted by HuronBob at 10:01 AM on September 26, 2006


"Did YOU read the article? Did you catch the quote at the very beginning that says ""It is impossible to say just how many of those justices are ill-informed or abusive.""

Yes, I caught it. I also comprehended it.

"That, my friend, was my point. The author states that he has no idea how his implication that the justices are "ill-informed or abusive" applies to the group in general... so, my question to YOU is, isn't this sensationalism? Isn't this just like the evening news report during sweeps week that tells us we're all gonna die for this reason or that?"

Your point was idiotic. We can't tell how extensive the problem is because of a fundamental lack of oversight. That ITSELF is a problem. It's not "sensationalism" to bring that up, and in reading this you should be struck by the LACK of sensationalism. You know, if you had any inkling of media literacy.
Sensationalism would be distorting the charges, or deliberately portraying them in a way that makes people assume a worse conclusion than they should. Sensationalism would be the headline "JUDGE ADVOCATES BEATING WOMEN." Sensationalism would be the headline "IS YOUR JUDGE RACIST?"
Instead, we've got a solid case of investigative journalism on an issue that will touch thousands of people's lives, and you're pulling some sort of false dichotomy bullshit because you can't tell the difference between good journalism and yellow nightly news "problem solvers."

"Note, I didn't say that shit doesn't happen, I didn't say that the ones that do the shit are good people...I'm just saying that if an author puts that type of disclaimer at the beginning of the article, how much weight should it carry?"

IT'S NOT A DISCLAIMER! If a classroom didn't keep records of students' work and then failed them arbitrarily with no oversight, wouldn't that be a problem in itself, especially if you could demonstrate that it was happening regularly? Even without the excerbation of sexism and racism, also clearly demonstrated?

OF FUCKING COURSE.

"And, if you can't see how this "fundamental lack of justice" is insignificant when compared to the rape of this country that is being done on a daily basis by those with much more power, then you've got your head in a hole (or someplace just as dark). Which wrong do YOU want to correct?"

Oh, bullshit. Why do you care about infractions of our civil liberties and not about genocide in the Sudan? Why do you hate African people? Stop trying to change the subject in order to justify your faulty logic and retarded arguments.
And if you can't see why this is significant you should read the fucking constitution again while trying to remember that not all challenges to it come from Bush. Stop letting adlepated partisan myopia club any vestigial sense of justice you have left in your brain.
Go take your nap.
posted by klangklangston at 10:05 AM on September 26, 2006


"I guess I feel that media can distract us sometimes, and sometimes even mislead us."

Yes. Does that mean that it is always distracting or misleading? No. Is it in this case? No.
If you'd care to argue how this detracts one iota from the righting of larger injustices, I'd be happy to fisk you again.
posted by klangklangston at 10:07 AM on September 26, 2006


I agree that The Media does do these things [that is, they all have agendas, and those agendas are manifested in the types of articles they run], and I take everything with a block of salt, but occasionally they get something right; if this reportage serves to raise awareness, then that's a good thing.

I understand your point about triage, and I agree with you on that point as well, but I lack a sufficient answer as to what we can do in terms of media reformation in order to bring the focus back to an acceptable level--I generally don't trust corporate media as far as I can toss them--but on the smaller issues, I see less of a direct agenda [i.e. sweeps / misdirection / &c.].
posted by exlotuseater at 10:10 AM on September 26, 2006


^ that was to HuronBob.
posted by exlotuseater at 10:10 AM on September 26, 2006


/me is going to take a nap.
posted by exlotuseater at 10:11 AM on September 26, 2006


klangklangston's post is a bit angry, but contains all the points most of us having been trying to make to HuronBob.

The idea that this is a media issue is possibly the dumbest thing I've seen all day, and I've had CNN and Bloomberg on all day.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 10:15 AM on September 26, 2006


This is interesting to me, because I am studying this problem myself...except my work is on the 1700s. We like to think we've left that behind us, yet...
"Several of the [Albany Justices of the Peace] as I am well informed are very unfit for that Office, and others of infamous Character, were recommended ... to serve some Dirty purposes, wherefore I think it is my Duty to interpose, I hope you will not fail as soon as you can sending it to me, that the Commission may not rule before I am heard upon that Subject, which I flatter myself will not be thought unreasonable, when it is considered how much the Tranquility of the Country & the Happiness of the Inhabitants depend upon having such Magistrates as will act uprightly and impartially in their Office, which I am sorry to say many do not, as I am also, that there are not more Men of Abilities in these parts, but ye Country is young. It cannot be yet expected."
(Letter of Sir William Johnson to Goldsbrow Banyar, January 19, 1770)

And, from 1768...
"[We ought to join in] prohibiting Justices from holding their Courts in any Taverns whatsoever, it being most notoriously their Practice to do so by Compact for their mutual Interest and to permit and join in intemperate Drinking during the Trial, to the Perversion of Justice and the increase of Perjury."
Seasons come and seasons go, and there is nothing new under the sun...
posted by nasreddin at 10:47 AM on September 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Probly die in a small town
Oh, those small communities

All my friends are so small town
My parents live in the same small town
My job is so small town
Provides little opportunity

Educated in a small town
Taught the fear of jesus in a small town
Used to daydream in that small town
Another boring romantic thats me

[...]


furtive: Sure, why not. Because it is well-known that all lawyers are brilliant, altruistic people with a pitch-perfect sense of justice. Just ask dios.
posted by oncogenesis at 10:48 AM on September 26, 2006


Couldn’t you bring a lawsuit though for serious grievances? If I was wrongly jailed for 2 years I’d be suing everyone and their brother. Might cost me $8,000, but I’d own that town. I’d think.
If there truly is no practical redress then yeah, this is a very very serious flaw in our system.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:59 AM on September 26, 2006


I only read the first couple pages of the article. I'm not sure what the surprise is. These are "justice courts" or courts of equity. Sometimes called "small claims courts" or "justices of the peace." They are frequently presided over by people who are elected and have no legal training. The reason is that they are not courts at law. Historically, there are two kinds of courts: courts at law and courts sitting in equity. These that are referreed to appear to be courts sitting in equity. Their function is to do what is "equitable" instead of what the law requires. "Equitable" means fair. Thus, while a court of law is focused on doing exactly what the letter of the law requires, often courts in equity are focused on doing whatever the judge things is the fair result.

I'd be surprised if most states don't have these kinds of courts. They serve a purpose. They frequently handle small claims and issues where people are trying to resolve minor disputes. The focus is not on applying the law; it is on trying to resolve a dispute in a fair manner. The justice courts also typically handle real property actions and minor criminal actions, typically where no time in prison will result.

If the equitable courts in NY are like the ones I am familiar with in other states, the courts are informal, which is why an attorney is not always required. People typically represent themselves pro se. The rules of evidence and rules of civil procedure are not rigidly enforced. The cases tend to be more like the cases in front of Judge Wapner: "What's your side?"; "And what's your side?"; Ruling. Regardless, in civil matters, there is no right to an attorney. That right only attaches in a criminal matters in which imprisonment is imposed. Thus, you can still be punished under criminal law without an attorney as long as there is no imprisonment.

These courts have a right to appeal. Usually, the right to appeal is limited anywhere from a few days to a month. The appeal is usually done to the lowest court at law (county court at law here in Texas; no idea what they call it in NY... probably something like Supremest Highest Superiorist Court).

I'll have to finish the article later, but I was surprised by the tone of the article. This is elementary legal system stuff that goes back to Merry Ol' England. But the article takes on a tone as if this is some dark, underground system unique to New York. That isn't the case and it seems particular alarmist the way the author characterizes it.

I personally think that equitable courts are a travesty. But I believe in the rigid and neutral application of the law. Early in my career, the only time I had to show up in justice court was enough to sour me on it forever. That the law was on my side was irrelevant; the justice of the peace was only concerned with what was fair. So the idiot who wanted his money back because he was angry about a charge from the hospital was able to get some of his money back, despite the fact that the law clearly prevented his recovery. But that is the point of a court sitting in equity: fairness, not law.

I especially enjoy the ignorant judge describing laws he doesn't like as "unconstitutional".
posted by StarForce5 at 8:09 AM CST on September 26


It's just like Metafilter!

posted by dios at 12:01 PM on September 26, 2006


Thanks, dios, I found that an informative answer (and appreciated your adding your personal take on it, which hopefully will stave off charges that you're standing up for injustice).

It's just like Metafilter!

Heh.

posted by languagehat at 12:05 PM on September 26, 2006


HURONBOB

First off, I won't accuse you of being a lawyer or a legal professional... or, for that matter, of having a lick of intelligence.

I gather that you think it is no big deal for people who are largely unfit to be a nightwatchman at the local supermarket have the power to judge others, to insult them, and to possibly jail them for up to two years.

Above, you compare the incompetence of the justices that the article exposes to that of any other profession.

Well, I for one hope that somebody who has the authority to judge me has a little more to his name than, say, a beer delivery guy. Although I am sure that there are some very intelligent beer delivery guys out there. But still, I would hope that a beer delivery guy would have more than a 12 week course to his name before presiding over my case.

The legal profession is not just any profession. There are rules to abide by and ethics codes to follow. Whether or not the justices are lawyers, they should at very least have a fundamental understanding of the law that they are applying.

The point that you are missing is that these people have a real and substantial power. Power of this sort should only be in the hands of competent and qualified people.

Also, on your "feeling" that the media can "sometimes" distract and mislead us. Do you honestly think that is happening in this article? Do you think that the millions of New Yorkers who are - I assume - largely unaware of what is happening in their backyards should remain ignorant?

I agree that the media distorts and misleads. But usually that distortion is expressly to keep us from noticing exactly what this article exposes.
posted by pwedza at 1:04 PM on September 26, 2006


I for one hope that somebody who has the authority to judge me has a little more to his name than, say, a beer delivery guy.

Why is that? We have a system based on the belief that we should be tried by a jury of our peers. Most likely, if you ever get judged by a jury, it will be by people less qualified then even these justices of the peace. At least they are elected or appointed officials.

There are rules to abide by and ethics codes to follow. Whether or not the justices are lawyers, they should at very least have a fundamental understanding of the law that they are applying.

That's the point. These aren't courts of law. They are more about fairness, not just applying the law. They certainly are supposed to be guided by the law, and if you appeal their decision, the court at law to which you appeal will apply the law. Such a system predates the founding of our country and goes back to Merry Ol' England.

Look, I'm all for neutrally derived interpretation and rigid application of both law and procedure. But people often complain about how cold and daunting the law is. There are constant complaints of the need to have lawyers to get justice and the fact the system is set up to help the powerful at the expense of the weak. These justice courts are designed to be courts of access to the common man to resolve small disputes. Without these kinds of courts, how is one going to file their $1,000 lawsuit? What attorney is going to take it? And if it is to be a court of the common man, the application of the rules of procedure and evidence must be lax. These courts are about trying to ensure that justice, or the fair and equitable result as opposed to the legally-derived result, be done.

I would do away with them in favor of having courts at law exclusively, but there are valid reasons to have such courts.
posted by dios at 1:48 PM on September 26, 2006


dios, i understand your referring to this system as 'courts of equity,' but i suppose my area of concern is that these are handling both civil and criminal cases. in the case of small civil lawsuits, i think they would probably be ok. but i take issue with a equitible court system dealing with criminal issues, especially ones that could result in incarceration. doesn't the idea of a equitable criminal court alarm you?
posted by lester's sock puppet at 2:28 PM on September 26, 2006


pwedza: I for one hope that somebody who has the authority to judge me has a little more to his name than, say, a beer delivery guy.

dios: Why is that? We have a system based on the belief that we should be tried by a jury of our peers. Most likely, if you ever get judged by a jury, it will be by people less qualified then even these justices of the peace. At least they are elected or appointed officials.
Straw man. The judicial system in which the trial by jury occurs is itself heavily regulated, and guided by a long, historically based system of ethics and codes of conduct and procedure. There are strong and long-standing rules on what the judge, the lawyers, and even the jury can and can't do. It is within that context that the final say comes from a jury of your peers; this is meant to balance the system with the injection of that personalized "fairness" you talk of, without making it a kangaroo court where "fair" is one judge's singular definition of fair. This is a way for the common man- beer vendor or otherwise- to inject a most democratic balance to possibly unjust laws or unethical/biased application of the laws.
dios: But people often complain about how cold and daunting the law is. There are constant complaints of the need to have lawyers to get justice and the fact the system is set up to help the powerful at the expense of the weak. These justice courts are designed to be courts of access to the common man to resolve small disputes. Without these kinds of courts, how is one going to file their $1,000 lawsuit?
STRAW. FUCKING. MAN.

You either didn't read the article or are (typical!!!) avoiding it entirely in favor of your own much tidier vision of what is being discussed. This is not about Wopner-esque small claims civil court issues, this is about people being jailed/deprived of liberty or property through a system that is unmonitored, poorly trained, and apparently thoroughly corrupt. People are being held against their will by ostensible official branches of our legal system, yet without the checks and balances you'd expect from more advanced "courts of law".

We both agree these types of courts are silly and shouldn't be part of the judicial system, and that if people want to settle civil disputes using an unofficial corrolary to courts akin to private mediators, that makes a certain sense. But jesus, right from the third fuckin' paragraph of the article:
People have been sent to jail without a guilty plea or a trial, or tossed from their homes without a proper proceeding. In violation of the law, defendants have been refused lawyers, or sentenced to weeks in jail because they cannot pay a fine. Frightened women have been denied protection from abuse.
The outrage expressed here, and importance of this series of articles, is that people are actually being tried and convicted of crimes, with the ensuing physical and financial punishments, by unrestrained psychopaths in unmonitored kangaroo courts. Even a contrarian loudmouth from Texas should understand that this is not a good thing.
posted by hincandenza at 2:33 PM on September 26, 2006


hincandenza: I think you and dios are both right. On the one hand, the law has to be applied fairly and equally (not necessarily equitably), and the courts highlighted in the NY Times article are not doing that.

On the other hand, dios is right that these courts tap into a long tradition of layman justice and 'fairness' that sees the local community, represented by a non-lawyer, as the arbiter of justice in minor cases.

I think the real scandal is not the existence of these courts, but the lack of support they receive from the state. The British experience has shown that lay justices can deliver fair and reasonable justice while still representing their communities. But they do that within a structure of support that is presumably more than the voters of NY state care to afford.
posted by athenian at 2:46 PM on September 26, 2006


Without these kinds of courts, how is one going to file their $1,000 lawsuit?

Small Claims Court?

Y'know dios, i thought you might have something interesting to add to this thread. It's disappointing that you instead chose to ignore the article and just automatically take an opposition view.

I guess I should've expected it.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 2:48 PM on September 26, 2006


Dios: is a $2,000,000 landlord/tenant dispute a small matter? how about an offense that could land you in jail for a month.

Both of these are handled by NY Justice Courts. Your defense of the system ignores these facts, and instead concentrates on the more defensible portion of their duties.

Your defense of the system also ignores the fact that there is no effective oversight or recourse in these matters. Instead you falsely claim that these NY Justice Courts are just like every other state's small claims court.

Meh.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 2:53 PM on September 26, 2006


athenian- thanks for clarifying. I do agree with dios about some things, and I'm not opposed to low-level issues being dealt with by these courts, provided they are funded and run as essentially lower-overhead versions of the "real" courts. With less training than a real lawyer/judge, but more than a true/false test an idiot could (and apparently does) pass, good "fair" justice could be dispensed in these low-level cases.

But I think anything criminal above a traffic ticket or minor fine (say, under $X where X is not a terribly high amount), or involving any incarceration or even being held by the police, should absolutely be handled only by "real" courts. Domestic abuse? Incarceration? Deportation? Handled by Hillbilly Joe and his Redneck Posse of Drunken Thugs? And the lack of outrage from dios among others- who is allegedly himself a lawyer/legal expert- is shocking to me. We aren't talking about just a parking ticket or a small claims issue here. And he steadfastly- and typically, as on preview the The Taco Contintental has noted- refuses to address the real human issues being handled by this court, instead inventing a strawman that it's just people with "He stole my milk money!" cases.

Given how he throws a hissy fit whenever someone talks about depriving some rich white dude of a little property for the bests interests of the state, he's remarkably unconcerned and blase about these fundamental constitutional violations.
posted by hincandenza at 2:53 PM on September 26, 2006


It's just like Metafilter!

thirded.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:07 PM on September 26, 2006


Did someone seriously suggest the more judges should be lawyers???? That's the problem with the courts today. It's one big "good old boy" network of lawyers.

Yeah. Same problem with filling holes in teeth. Nothing but a "good old boy" network of dentists.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:55 PM on September 26, 2006


What comes from a legal system like this? Nothing but trouble.
posted by lekvar at 5:26 PM on September 26, 2006


I still haven't had a nap....
posted by HuronBob at 5:52 PM on September 26, 2006


Yeah, good god! You wouldn't want people who have actually studied and practiced the law to be judges, would you?
posted by liquorice at 6:39 PM on September 26, 2006


Languagehat... I see it like this. Articles like this are a distraction. They keep us focused on the minutia, we get upset about traffic tickets and small idiots in small jobs. There are a million minor tyrants that impose their will on our lives day in and day out.

This is cuts to the very core of our condition. These idiots pose far greater practical risk to me then any government official. These "petty tyrants" are the ones who really effect the average American.
posted by delmoi at 7:26 PM on September 26, 2006


These justice courts are designed to be courts of access to the common man to resolve small disputes. Without these kinds of courts, how is one going to file their $1,000 lawsuit? What attorney is going to take it?

Yeah, I wouldn't have a problem with that, but these idiots are handling criminal issues too, and throwing people in jail. And they are apparently acting in other unfair ways, in one case stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment from a fellow meifite (read the comments)
posted by delmoi at 7:33 PM on September 26, 2006


The judicial system in which the trial by jury occurs is itself heavily regulated, and guided by a long, historically based system of ethics and codes of conduct and procedure.

And administrative law just comes out of thin air?!
posted by pwedza at 7:36 PM on September 26, 2006


Oh, there was another thread about this and I asked there if these courts were the ones that handled the subgenious custody dispute.
posted by delmoi at 7:36 PM on September 26, 2006


I am again compelled to point out: dios is a troll. He is only a troll. He'll post something on any thread to get the maximum argument. There is no need to refute his words or argue with him. Just ignore him and he'll go away.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:38 PM on September 26, 2006


I'd just like to say, that thanks to klangklangston I now have a new favourite word: addlepated.

Please continue with your entertaining and informative discussion.
posted by MrMustard at 2:12 AM on September 27, 2006


Or don't.
posted by MrMustard at 5:55 AM on September 27, 2006


I am again compelled to point out: dios is a troll. He is only a troll.

Actually, nobody's "compelling" you to do anything; you just felt like slinging some poo. But leaving aside your little rhetorical flourish, let's do the math:

dios made a substantive and interesting comment directly addressing the issue under discussion.

lupus_yonderboy
said nothing about the issue but merely insulted another member, contrary to Matt's express wishes ("Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand -- not at other members of the site").

Now, what were you saying?
posted by languagehat at 6:32 AM on September 27, 2006


dios - You obviously didn't read the article. These courts are issuing orders of protection, jailing people for long periods of time, and addressing issues that are far beyond the duties of a small claims court.

What if you tried to actually read the article next time rather than just taking a contrarian view next time? That would be refreshing.
posted by bshort at 7:26 AM on September 27, 2006


Aaand part three, which I have to read online because a 'production problem delayed delivery, your paper will arrive by 11 PM.'
posted by sohcahtoa at 7:36 AM on September 27, 2006


dios made a substantive and interesting comment directly addressing the issue under discussion.

dios's comment only seems substantive or interesting if you haven't read the article.

If you have, it becomes apparent that he has mis-represented the scope of these courts in order to take his typical contrarian view.

He claims they are the same as small claims, but he runs from the thread when people note that small claims courts don't handle six or seven figure disputes, nor do they put people in jail.

On the bright side, at least it was fun to see languagehat write something that was completely, totally and indefensibly hypocritical.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 2:48 PM on September 28, 2006


So your implication is that lupus_yonderboy was helping to maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand? Or are you just exhibiting that hypocrisy you're so eager to see in others?
posted by languagehat at 4:59 PM on September 28, 2006


dios trolled us by making a substantive comment that entirely misrepresented the issue at hand on purpose, and we bit.

Of course it's entirely our fault for not responding to trolls, even if their asshat comments are substantial. He's not polluting the site at all with his trolling, we're the real asshats for disliking consistently contrarian trolls. We might as well be perscriptivists too, in your eyes.
posted by blasdelf at 1:30 AM on September 29, 2006


dios trolled us by making a substantive comment that entirely misrepresented the issue at hand on purpose, and we bit.

This is plainly ridiculous. The reactions to my post have nothing to do with what I actually say. Instead, people see my username and see the typical people nipping at my heels and ignore what I say.

My comment is directly on-point and entirely accurate. I did not misrepresent anything. Everything I said was correct. Of course, none of that matters to the people who want to fight with dios. It is irrelevant to you and other people who jumped all over me that I actually know what justice courts are, their history, their usage in various jurisdictions, and have actually practiced in one. Not one substantive thing that I actually said was argued over or disproved. One annoying fan of mine mischaracterized what I said and crowed about it. But nothing I said was incorrect. Nor do you see anyone with any legal training or experience contradicting anything I said. Instead, all you see are the same people who would disagree with me no matter what I say bitching about my comments.

I quit following this thread after the first few. But I'm amazed to check it today and see that people are still bitching about me. What is your problem? It is utter and complete bullshit for you to be reacting like you did to the substantive comments I made in this thread. If anyone else had posted what I did, there would be no reaction like this.. You assholes don't bother to read or understand a damn thing I say and instead attack me personally, all the while accusing me of trolling? And then people are surprised I don't respond or stay and explain my point? It's nonsense.

If you think I am trolling, then take me to Metatalk. I would submit that you will most likely get roasted for being a complete prick if you do, as most people can see that my comments were on-topic, substantive and reasonable.
posted by dios at 7:43 AM on September 29, 2006


dios was not trolling--he was making some pretty accurate observations in his limited view of the article(s). please note that he started his comments by explaining he didn't read the whole thing...which means challenging him on some of it's aspects (ie: the size of judgements) is pretty pointless.

personally, his noting the difference between the 'justice courts' or 'equitable courts' and 'courts of law' added a lot to my understanding of the situation.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 8:55 AM on September 29, 2006


"Instead, people see my username and see the typical people nipping at my heels and ignore what I say."

Aww, bullshit. Hicandenza's comment was spot on, and your mewling contortions of martyrdom are totally offbase. Shut the fuck up on this one, Dios, as you're a man looking to dig himself out of a hole by arguing about the size of the shovel.
(Oh, and you'll note that it didn't take any particular legal knowledge to knock apart your comment. Us plebes occassionally show some understanding of those difficult concepts y'all lawyers bandy about).
posted by klangklangston at 9:47 AM on September 29, 2006


Dios - while I agree that to an extent, people are bitching nonsensically about you... I have to point this out, from the third paragraph of the article:
People have been sent to jail without a guilty plea or a trial
And while your first comment was quite enlightening about how these things work, you really don't address that part of the article at all.
posted by antifuse at 1:34 AM on October 2, 2006


You assholes don't bother to read or understand a damn thing I say and instead attack me personally, all the while accusing me of trolling?

ROFL.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 11:26 AM on October 2, 2006


So your implication is that lupus_yonderboy was helping to maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand?

Please continue this off-topic, member-focussed discussion in e-mail, if you feel the need to further discuss the matter.

This is not the place to discuss lupus_yonderboy.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 5:20 PM on October 2, 2006


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