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Monday, March 4, 2013

Self-serving justice is nothing new

Convolution and deliberate obfuscation is the way they want it. In the olden days, men in fancy robes and fancy hats stood forth before their congregations and they spoke Latin verses which meant little or nothing to the illiterate and unwashed peons who listened confounded. What does it mean? they wondered. Never fear, because the man in shimmering samite would soon tell them, not what the words actually meant, but what he wanted them to mean.

These days there's still a man standing forth who's dressed in a fancy suit. He's still speaking in Latin, and the words are still read aloud to a confounded audience who wonders what do these strange disjointed half-Latin sentences mean? Never fear, because the guy in the silk, cashmere, or virgin wool suit, will shortly tell us, not what the words actually mean, but what he wants them to mean.

Justice is often a roll of the dice. Your day in court comes finally and if it's a civil case maybe you’re suing, or maybe you're being sued. If a law's been broken you're either innocent or maybe you're guilty. We take some small comfort in the fact that usually those to blame are going to pay for it one way or another. Ah, but I doubt that this is true more and more every day. There are two kinds of lawbreaking, the kind where somebody gets hurt and the kind where it's the state who's the aggrieved party. In the former case, a person files a complaint or a suit. He's been wronged in some way and he wants justice. In the latter case nobody has been hurt but rules are rules and the state can't have people breaking its rules just because they feel like it.

On the civil side of the law we've got a broken patent system that grows ever more stifling towards innovation and invention, to the point where it has become impossible for the little guy to succeed. You and I might have a great idea and we might try to patent that idea and then sell that invention but it's more than likely that whatever idea we come up with has already been patented in some variation or permutation. It doesn't have to be a particular invention in toto, but only some small piece of it that is vaguely similar to a dust-covered patent in some corporation vault. The way a dial is numbered, the way two cogs fit together, the way a transistor, capacitor, or resistor is wired up, all can be covered by an ambiguous patent and so prevent your product from ever going to market. With millions and millions of patents already registered, it's a virtual certainty that if your invention has real money-making potential then at some point you're going to be sued for patent infringement. What this means going forward, is that it will become ever more the case that only the biggest corporations that already own a library of patents and employ a team of patent lawyers will ever be able to make and sell useful products. They'll sue each other back and forth and the attorneys on both sides will grow ever richer. The cost of these patent lawsuits will be passed along to the retail consumer.

Consider the possibility that both sides in this patent dispute, as well as the legal system in place to adjudicate it are all engaging in an elaborate scheme to choke off the opportunity for competition. It's a giant scam! It's merely corporate protectionism. The big conglomerates don't want little upstarts upsetting the apple cart, so they've created a legal environment where it's literally impossible to become successful unless you're already successful.

America has a wide variety of anti-trust laws put into place at both the Federal and the state level. These laws are designed to discourage monopolies and trusts from forming and then subsequently setting prices absent any real competition. How then can we reconcile these anti-trust laws, with patent law which has now been corrupted sufficiently to accomplish exactly the anti-competitive environment that the anti-trust laws seek to avoid?

Now we move along to criminal law. A judge in a criminal case listens to the arguments and unilaterally decides what the jury is allowed to hear. Consider, a judge can allow the jury to hear and examine evidence which would cause them to decide a guilty or an innocent verdict, or the judge can decide to withhold that evidence from the jury. The judge—and only the judge—decides which evidence the jury is privy to. This is justice? The rules for whether the judge will allow a particular piece of evidence or testimony to be included in a jury's deliberations are convoluted and deliberately obfuscated to the point where a judge can legitimately go in either direction at his own whim and then make a convincing and compelling argument that he made the most correct decision possible in such an ambiguous and equivocal realm as law.

Injustice is baked into our justice system and every person who walks away from a trial either unjustly poorer or innocently incarcerated, and feeling as though they were completely screwed over by the system has a right to feel that way. Our justice system isn't fair, and every day it grows more unfair.

I'm sure you're aware of a variety of court cases where you believe the guilty walked away scot-free and possibly even one or two cases where the innocent were unjustly locked up. Precedent and the convoluted rigmarole of kabuki court proceedings guarantee that it is impossible to declare with virtual certainty that there has or has not been a miscarriage of justice. It's all so equivocal, so muddied, so convoluted and deliberately obfuscatory that a person has to study for eight years and pass a difficult examination before he's trusted to translate any of this precedent that would so confound the unwashed peons who listen not to what the "precedent" really means but what the person citing the precedent wants it to mean. The only thing that remains the same from this day to those days centuries in the past, is that the ones interpreting confusing books filled with Latin are going to be the winners in every case no matter which side loses.

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