As part of my blogging on this website, I comment from time to time on law
enforcement and the criminal justice system in general. I came across and article titled The Feeblest Branch in the October 1st-7th edition of the Economist magazine that solidified my concern for our court system. The information in this story is disturbing
in the implications for our county.
It seems, once again, the people who control the purse strings in our federal, state and county governments are short changing the courts. The Economist reports the federal courts face “swelling dockets, delaying cases, and reducing access to legal systems.” The San Francisco Superior Court almost closed down had it not been for an emergency loan. Due to deeper budget cuts in the future, the San Francisco Superior Court and 15 to 28 California courts face a similar dilemma in the coming fiscal year.
According to the American Bar Association, in the past two years, “26 [states] have stopped filling judicial vacancies, 34 have stopped replacing clerks, 31 have frozen salaries or cut the salaries of judges or staff, 16 have furloughed clerical staff and nine have furloughed judges. 14 states have reduced their operating hours, and are closed on some work days.”
One court in Georgia has stopped hearing civil cases and others across the country
are saying they also may have to stop. Criminal cases are taking more than a year to be heard in many states. This means more suspects are being released without being adjudicated or sitting in jail waiting for a court date…which costs money…lots of it.
During the seventies and eighties, the federal government poured money in law
enforcement agencies to increase police presence in the streets. That is all well and good, but they forgot to address the impact on the criminal justice system from the large increase of arrests. The government scrambled to get money to prosecution agencies and then to public defenders. The courts started complaining, so they got what was left. Jails and prisons got caught holding the bag.
The impact from those days is still being felt today. Our jails and prisons are overcrowded, the courts are swamped, prosecution agencies routinely turn down cases due to lack of resources. Cops are frustrated by the lack of satisfaction from the system for victims and themselves. As usual, victims are not a major player in this process so they feel like nobody, except perhaps the investigating officer, really gives a damn about them.
On the civil side, if courts stop adjudicating civil lawsuits, people are going to
turn to self-help. The eventual result will be chaos…and violence. The warning signs are already flashing.
This country has to realize spending the majority of our government budget on
individual entitlements at the expense of the systems that truly serve the
common good is leading to the destruction of our democracy and the loss of our
freedoms. Freedom and democracy cannot survive without the rule of law. We cannot
sit blithely by believing, “It can’t happen here.” It is happening here and the only way to stop our decline is to rededicate ourselves to the principles on which our county was founded. Those principles included limited government, freedom to believe what you want and seek your fortune and fostering rugged individualism. The principles did not
include individual entitlements by the government to buy votes.
When I went to school as kid (a very long time ago), we were constantly told we live in a free country, but freedom must be exercised with responsibility. Responsibility meant following the rule of law, respecting your fellow citizens and their private property and pitching in and helping your community. I know for a fact this kind of responsibility is not being taught in most schools today or by many parents. It’s time to make a real “change” and instill this idea of responsibility in our coming generations. The survival of this great nation depends on it.