Elsewhere in the blawgosphere, a couple of interesting posts: one from Gamso about the death penalty (of course) and one from Greenfield about, well, apparently increasing lawyer suicides, among other things.
The death penalty. Ugh. Speaking for myself I trend in Gamso’s abolitionist direction and then away from it, depending on, well, nothing in particular. Stepping back from it all I think of it as a very interesting question for debate. As long as it remains completely abstract I think the death penalty winds up being justifiable in this or that imagined case.
Make it more concrete, though, and the whole chain of reasoning, elegant though it may be in theory, falls apart. Breivik, the Norwegian who killed about 70 teenagers in a shooting spree the like of which is normally seen only in the US? Both sides of Gamso’s debate seem to think he fits the bill of ‘the worst of the worst’. But I think he’s completely fucking nuts, not a good death penalty candidate at all. I realize what he did was unspeakable, but the harm done is not the measure. People – lots of people, or at least frequently more than 70 at a time - suffer terribly, are terrorized and die in plane crashes. Nobody should get the death penalty for that; it’s usually an accident. Nobody’s criminally liable at all.
Not to mention what the death penalty apparently does to us as a people. The bloodlust I have observed over the web with respect to numerous cases over the last few years is bewildering. Stupefying. It leaves me speechless and as close as I ever come to being depressed. I’ve pretty much decided that this particular collateral consequence is sufficient reason in and of itself to abolish the death penalty. Most days I decide that, anyway.
Speaking of depressed, apparently a lot of lawyers are becoming depressed and committing suicide. Greenfield goes into it and his take is illuminating and predictable at the same time. He uses the opportunity to mock “therapeutic justice”. Maybe he should, but on the other hand it seems to me that the blinders type approach to legal representation – that is, where the lawyer is very narrowly focused on “the case” and won’t bother with even the most obvious, if broader, consequences to the client, the client’ s family, etc. – has very deep flaws of its own.
Then again, as he often does despite himself, I’d have to agree almost completely with SHG here:
From my perch, two things seem to permeate the problems suffered by lawyers: First, good, hard-working lawyers are not earning enough to enjoy a sufficiently comfortable lifestyle for themselves and their family to justify surmounting the barriers to entry and the headache of the job. Second, the arbitrariness of the law. Non-lawyers think the law is somewhat reliable, and if a lawyer does good work, they will prevail. We know better, and it makes us nuts.
The only caveat: it’s not the law itself that’s arbitrary; it’s how it is administered in practice.
I also appreciated a quote from the underlying CNN article about lawyer suicides. Describing the stresses of lawyering, someone pointed out that a surgeon works with a group of people to save a patient; but there isn’t an opposing team trying to kill the patient.
I used to express sort of the same idea to people but not as well. I would tell them that sometimes I longed to be a mechanic, because you might or might not figure out how to fix the fuel system, but at least the fuel system isn’t fighting you while you try.