The U.S. Legal System and All Things Related Blog

With Enough People, Power, and Persistence, the System Will Improve



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A Look at Presidential Pardons since 1900


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Corruption is the rule.  This week marks twenty-eight years since George H.W. Bush pardoned six defendants as part of the Iran-Contra cover up.  One of whom, confessed criminal Elliot Abrams, was brought back into government by George W. Bush, and now serves as Trump’s Iran/Valenzuela envoy.  Trump is not just using the pardon power as other presidents have, but pardoning people to send a clear signal to witnesses and prosecutors.  Each of the pardoned miscreants was convicted of crimes that may have been committed by witnesses against Trump or by the president himself.

Corruption Is Alive and Well in American Courts


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A judiciary without honesty has little chance of executing its moral and constitutional duties, no matter how many rules of ethics exist.  This is true in the United States, where the judiciary is afforded wide discretion.  Facts and laws require interpretation; justice and equity require judgment.  We count on honest judges to navigate our ship of justice through dangerous waters.  We expect judges to be honest because we establish institutions that incentivize honesty.  Despite the critical importance of maintaining judicial integrity, there is much to say about how commonplace corruption is in our courts.

Three Strikes (and You're Out) Laws—Why These Laws Are Bad


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History

In the United States, habitual offender laws, commonly referred to as "three-strikes laws" were first implemented on March 7, 1994, and are part of the Department of Justice Anti-Violence Strategy.  These laws require two previous convictions in order to be applicable and sometimes make life in prison mandatory.  Twenty-eight states have some form of a three-strikes law.  Its purpose is to drastically increase the punishment of those convicted of more than two felonies, but, in some instances, convictions of more than just one criminal offense, not necessarily a felony, will still result in harsher penalties as it does in Washington, D.C.

America the Not-So Beautiful


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The Problem
One can look anywhere in the world where there is money or power, and corruption can be found rearing its ugly head.  This has been the case throughout history.  It is human nature. However, a legal system is possibly the least desirable place for corruption to exist because of the immense power the system wields and, at times, decides who lives and who dies.

How a Judge's Bias Can Taint a Case


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Many legal experts agree that one of the biggest threats to our nation’s system of justice are judges, who, through a lack of proficiency, bias or corruption, prevent a litigant from getting a fair hearing in our courts. Judges in local, state, and federal courts across the country oftentimes hide their connections to litigants and their lawyers. These links can be social, political, financial, or ideological. In some instances the judge may have mutual investment interests with a litigant or lawyer. The judge might be related somehow to one of the parties. Although such situations cannot always be avoided, when they do create a perception of bias, a judge has the duty to at least disclose that information. If the situation creates an actual bias, the judge should allow a different judge to take over.

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