Daily Archives: December 2, 2011

Warped System, Warped Minds

From Conrad Black, the man who coined the term “prosecutocracy”, an apt description of the criminal justice system in the US.

Especially interesting is this comment from a reader:

I have also worked in county courts for the 12 years since I was admitted to the bar, but have been both prosecutor and PD. Contrary to your reference to the “space-aged and extravagant” PD offices in your jurisdiction, PD offices in my area are sparse at best while the prosecutor’s offices are thoroughly funded at the least and extravagant at the extremes.

You also mention the caseload differences between prosecutors and PDs. My experience is that as a prosecutor, the vast bulk of the work is routine processing of paperwork. Let’s be honest; 99% of the cases fit within a very narrow pattern and do not involve significant disputes of fact or law. From the prosecution’s perspective, the work becomes a matter of processing the case through the system. This is not true of the Defense. As defense counsel, you must review the State’s evidence, interview the accused and other witnesses, conduct your own investigations where necessary, advise the client and manage his expectations, and then deal with the prosecutor. All this is a SUBSTANTIALLY greater work load per case than what the prosecution must bear and does not lessen because the case against the client is solid.

On top of this is that every county in my area systematically and deliberately under-funds public defenders. I used to make it an absolute practice to provide the PD opposing me copies of recent cases that were relevant to the upcoming trial. This was because they did not have access to basic legal research unless they traveled more than an hour to the nearest law school library!

Overall, Mr. Black’s charge against the American criminal justice system is valid. We are supposed to shield the accused from the overwhelming power of the State. Instead, we skew the process towards the prosecution because we have the warped belief in “law and order.”


My understanding is that in the UK, lawyers are not even allowed to be just prosecutors or just defenders, as is the case in the US; they have to work both sides, just like the commenter has.  And no one who has been on both sides could fail to come to conclusions very similar to the commenter’s.  Of particular note is his comparison of the per case work required, being much higher for the defense side.

Being catered to and favored the way prosecutors are might warp anyone’s perspective.  The result is that we create monsters.

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Filed under financial crisis, Judicial lying/cheating, Striking lawyers, wrongful convictions