Just Deserts (Updated)

As we write this morning our city – Rochester, New York – is experiencing what is called “civil unrest”. It has now taken a somewhat worrisome turn where protesters, having “occupied” City Hall, are squaring off with police.

The City probably cannot allow the occupation of City Hall for any extended period of time. On the other hand, one wonders what kind of “command and control” is in effect since in the last couple of days the police chief, his command staff, and the city’s Corporation Counsel have all been fired or suspended.

This is a potentially dangerous moment, in other words. We hope for the best, of course. We have friends and neighbors on both sides.

Our own opinion is that the City of Rochester – including the mayor, police chiefs and the vast majority of the cops – are the least guilty and the least responsible officials for the state of affairs that is actually prompting all the protesting. We continue to object that lawyers – especially prosecutors – and judges are largely getting a pass while police officers are increasingly targeted. We think judges, in particular, have failed the country and even the police in the long run by toadying for the police. In the short run, toadying for the police is a political score for the judge and makes the police feel good. In the long run, consistently cheating truth, fairness and justice result in civil unrest, as we have so often pointed out.

In other words, we are simply experiencing the natural and probable consequences of decades of judicial dishonesty. No one should be surprised.

Some judges are already bending over backwards to make matters worse. We had to comment over on Professor Turley’s blog, and probably can’t much improve on that commentary here, so we’ll just reproduce it:

The judge is a moron. It is too late to impose “discipline” with draconian bail setting and sentencing accompanied by pious allusions to law and order. We haven’t done law and order for a long time, and that’s the problem. Law and order is not about the government’s monopoly on force; it’s about the government’s commitment to being fair and just. It is the third branch of government – the courts – that is supposed to keep that commitment and it has been failing – and I mean miserably failing – to do that for decades. It doesn’t even pretend to do it, and the members of the profession that administers the judicial branch – lawyers – are overwhelmingly nihilists who deny that fairness and justice have any meaning or content.

That’s a formula for civil unrest. It’s just a matter of time. And it’s inevitable.


It’s really unbelievable to me how dense a judge has to be to think he’s going to make a dent in all this by imposing an obviously unlawful bail. That’s exactly the kind of stupidity that has led to this situation in the first place. It’s also pretty depressing to see commenters here applauding the judge. I should think Professor Turley’s audience would be a little brighter.

The problems here run so deep. All of these recent incidents – George Floyd, Jacob Blake, etc. – are just triggers.

The underlying facts of these incidents don’t matter? You know, was it self-defense, was it a justified use of force by police, and so on.

Of course the underlying reality doesn’t matter. That’s exactly how our courts have been behaving for decades now. That’s exactly what we have taught the populace. Now they have learned the lesson and the shoe is on the other foot, turned around on us. What do we do now? Get them to listen to reason? It’s so “too late” for that. Cave to the pressure? That will invite more pressure.

There’s probably only one way out at this point: return to first principles like justice and fairness, or at least decency, then hang on, be patient, and take our punishment in the meantime.

This is not something we seem able to do very well. Or at all.

One last observation. Our friend SHG has his own take on the situation this morning. Very different from ours. Very much behind the curve, we think.

We see absolutely nothing wrong with a judge finally being made uncomfortable at home, especially in this situation. And SHG’s allusions to all the supposed remedies to correct the judge’s stupidity? It’s possible that some other judges might not be so stupid as this one is and might correct the obviously wrongful bail decision, but that’s only because the spotlight is on them, this time. The spotlight usually isn’t, and that means that – usually – even rulings as stupid as this one never get corrected.

Put another way: We deserve everything we’re getting, and then some.

Update: LOL On the one hand, this is good, undoing an obviously stupid ruling. It would be better if the judge just undid it instead of the pretense of a “hearing”, but meh.

On the other hand, he’s just caving to pressure. He has low character. Maybe we could say otherwise if he issued an abject apology for being such an asshole in the first place. But we are not holding our breath.


Filed under epistemology, Judicial lying/cheating, wrongful convictions

7 responses to “Just Deserts (Updated)

  1. Joe Smith

    There’s probably only one way out at this point: return to first principles like justice and fairness, or at least decency, then hang on, be patient, and take our punishment in the meantime.

    It depends what you mean by, “take our punishment in the meantime,” I suppose. If you mean something like, “return to first principles and force rioters to stop rioting in the meantime,” then probably I agree. General dissatisfaction with the state of society, however deep and justified, doesn’t mean you get to loot a Nike store — though I don’t give a damn about Nike, per se.

    Also, the current moment — from my point of view — can’t be laid entirely at the feet of the judiciary. I agree that the judiciary has been complicit in getting us here, and that you have written about it well. But progressivism, from Croly on in America, made this all but inevitable. A two-tiered justice system (at least) is just one side effect of technocracy. Judges respond to incentives like everyone else. The American political system hasn’t offered Americans a non-progressive option in almost a century, and by this point, even if it did, it wouldn’t matter because the deep-state is so thoroughly enmeshed. The deep state is by definition a technocracy — the actual political “leaders” have been essentially immaterial for decades.


    • Joe, can’t comment at length right now, but briefly, civil unrest is almost always chiefly, if not entirely, a function of a failed judicial system. I’ll comment further in the AM.


    • I’m not a collectivist by any means, but in any society there are some collective undertakings by government, and a fair and just dispute resolution mechanism is one of those. In other words, we are collectively responsible for the successes and failures of our “justice system”.

      The failures of the justice system are not confined to criminal justice. Recent decades have seen the advancing failure of civil justice as well. I point this out on the blog with some frequency, noting for example that whereas criminal convictions are as a practical matter never overturned on appeal, jury verdicts for disfavored litigants are routinely reduced or eliminated on appeal. And that is only one example. The fact that I can intelligibly allude to “disfavored litigants” at all is a tell.

      And what’s worse is that disfavored litigants, essentially, are any litigant that is far less powerful, in money and power terms, than their opponents. So, as I have so often put it, the truly predictable rule in the courts (as opposed to the rules of fairness we pretend to observe) are: the government wins, the bank wins, the insurance company wins.

      Again, this is how it has been for decades, completely unchecked. It is practiced unashamedly at the SCOTUS, which heavily favors the government and otherwise favored litigants and law firms.

      It having now dawned on disfavored litigants that they are indeed disfavored and that the system has not, and will never provide a remedy for that unless met by some opposing force, large numbers of them are taking to the streets and protesting and occasionally rioting. This is actually a sign of health, that some segment of society is willing to face reality and act on it. Force and power mean everything, evidence and reasoning mean nothing? So be it. Eventually that will work both ways.

      Rioting is never justified? Maybe not. But injustice will not remain a one way street forever. We are simply reaping what we have sown. And we’ll continue to do so, periodically and probably more and more often, until there is fundamental change in how our courts and legal profession operate.

      It won’t be easy. The legal profession and the judiciary have become so dense, so oblivious to their own role in presiding over what is essentially a social catastrophe. Look at Scott Greenfield’s take on it all. He should be grateful, as I am, that all that is happening to that judge is a little harassment and inconvenience. Eventually it will be the guillotine.

      It is every bit as serious as that, although not yet.

      What I think you’re missing is that our justice system has been an ongoing catastrophe for decades, for almost anyone who has had the misfortune of having to deal with it. Now its abject failure is out in the open, in the form of civil unrest. Everyone notices that, of course. It’s newsworthy. But it’s just the more recent manifestation of the same thing that has been going on before, under the surface.


      • And yes, what I mean by be patient, hang on and take our punishment is that we should recognize our errors, put up with the civil unrest without responding with force or violence, do a better job in the justice system and wait until the civil unrest peters out, which it will eventually if we’re not assholes about it.


      • Joe Smith

        It’s not so much that I disagree with what you’re saying, it’s just that I think what you’re describing is a symptom of a system sick in a whole slew of ways. That’s what I meant about the current unrest (read: riots, not protests) — I believe — stemming from the success of the mind-disease of progressivism in spreading throughout the American psyche with such all-pervasive vigor. This idea of technocracy is at the core of every American institution, and sits in the back of every politician’s mind: Elected officials are only there to manage various essentially unchecked bureaucracies that actually do the governing. And really, they don’t manage them at all — they basically start running for re-election as soon as they arrive, and the bureaucracies do whatever they do, usually with no legitimate recourse.

        This, I think, is the idea that gives rise to what passes for our justice system as it stands currently: let professionals handle it. But the professionals are all in bed with the moneyed elite, and so on, as you say. So, I’m not nitpicking about what the cause is, exactly; I can concede for the purposes of argument that civil unrest stems from a broken justice system that nearly always favors certain parties against everyone else. And I will additionally concede — not even for the sake of argument, but in fact — that our justice system is broken in exactly that way and has been for a very long time. All I’m trying to say in that respect is the outcome you’re describing seems to me to be the all-but-inevitable result of progressivism and technocracy — the American version of fascism, as it were.

        And finally, the government also has the responsibility to protect the lives and property of its citizenry. So I’d come down on a hard no to letting the riots peter themselves out, if it came to a vote. Assuming that the rioting would peter itself out, it’s still the case that every building burned belongs to someone (OK, probably ultimately a bank) and every Mom and Pop grocery store they loot represents a portion of at least one person’s life — literally a portion of their limited time on earth turned into goods. Force the justice system to actually attempt to dispense as much earthly justice as it can manage in as fair a way as it can manage — absolutely. But also stop the rioters from destroying people’s livelihoods, and even on occasion lives, by force if necessary. They can protest if they can do it in a way that doesn’t turn into a riot. Once it’s a riot, we should require them to stop.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Joe! This is a delightfully intelligent comment.

          Even so, I think you’re still missing the point, or one point. I don’t disagree that the government, any government, has the responsibility to protect the property and lives of its citizens. But our government has collapsed and no longer functions. It is incapable of meeting its responsibilities in a rational and coherent way.

          It is an essential characteristic of our government that it has three branches. If any of the three stops functioning so does the government.

          To the degree individuals have the need to defend their own lives and property of course they can do so. The government, however, to the extent it currently even exists, can only make matters worse.


          • Joe Smith

            I think you’re right that I was not fully understanding what you meant with regard to this point:

            It is an essential characteristic of our government that it has three branches.

            So, since this tripartite arrangement is an essential characteristic, when any one fails, the whole thing fails. Certainly it is the case that none of the branches of government currently function as intended — congress does nothing, the executive does too much, and the judiciary reifies the powers that be every chance it gets, the law be damned. Your view seems to be that we’re back to something of a disguised state of nature, where in fact there is no legitimate authority, but that truth is disguised by the skin-suit of long dead American institutions. Am I understanding your point properly?

            If so, perhaps you’re right about what government can do now to address the situation, which is to say nothing before major internal reforms. But then that puts citizens in an even tougher spot: do you defend yourself, knowing that illegitimate authority will come down on you like a ton of bricks for noticing their illegitimacy? Or do you run, and cede the field to the barbarians that are now within the gates? Bad options, both.


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