Letters & Comments: February 7, 2008 | Letters | Chicago Reader

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Letters & Comments: February 7, 2008

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"Justice and the law belong to the people, not to the bar associations."

The People Speak

Comments on "The Greater of Two Evils" by Michael Miner, Hot Type

Justin:

While the circumstances make it easy to blame those lawyers, or the canon that put them in that position, I have to say that I'd want someone of their commitment to their oath to represent me. It scares me that my lawyer might decide, contrary to what his code of professional ethics dictates, what counts as justice and work toward that end instead of mine. If I, God forbid, find myself in front of a jury, I've got one friend in the world—my lawyer. The entire (probably crooked, in Chicago) police apparatus is against me. I don't want him to have divided loyalties.

bongojonny:

Only a client can waive the privilege. If these lawyers did reveal that their client confessed to a crime, those statements would be inadmissible. The one exception is when your client threatens future crimes. The only way around this one is to amend the cannons of ethics—but wouldn't this cause a greater problem?

Anand:

I am not American and I agree with bongojonny's comment. But I would think that the Witness Protection Programme would offer a solution. There are people who have committed crimes allowed free because of a deal made with the state; a lawyer should be able to state unequivocally that the person being punished is not guilty because of information that they hold in confidence. Lawyers are trustworthy by definition and not to use that status to prevent a miscarriage of justice would seem to be a crime in itself. "Better ten innocent men go to jail than one guilty man go free," was it?

Chuck:

After reading this article, it is no wonder many people consider lawyers the scum of the earth. They stand behind this bullshit of attorney/client [privilege] and let an innocent man stay in prison 25 years. Lawyers have no ethics. They want to line their pockets and let the truth be silenced. "I don't want to be disbarred I would rather let an innocent man rot in jail." What a crock. I can't wait to see the lawsuits pile up on this one.

1-2-Oscar:

We need to re-examine the way we go about "seeking justice." Our "adversarial" system, inherited from English law, pits attorneys against each other—one prosecuting, the other defending an accused. Both sides are motivated to win, whether that is just or not. Neither side is obliged to actually seek complete examination of the facts. It is often to their advantage to conceal or suppress evidence which might reveal what actually happened. The consequence is that the criminal trial has become a sort of stylized joust between lawyers, with truth being subordinated to the rules of the competition between them.

Most of Europe operates courts under an "inquisitorial" system. Before someone gets carried away with images of the dreaded Spanish Inquisition, let's look at the differences. In France, for example, every attorney is an officer of the court, with an obligation that is primarily to the people, then to his client or to prosecution. Because each lawyer has an obligation to the people first, each is compelled to full disclosure. No one can seek to hide from the court what actually happened.

The role of the judge in France is also very different. In the U.S. the judge acts as an impartial "umpire" who applies the law to ensure that the rules are followed. He is allowed no active role in actually determining what the facts or circumstances of the case might be. In France, however, the judge's primary responsibility is to arrive at a "just" verdict, not to simply see that the rules are followed. Therefore, French judges have tools not available to their American counterparts. They may appoint special investigators to ascertain the facts of the case, often clearing the fog surrounding important details. They may also actively question both the accused and the witnesses, and thereby ensure that no stone is left unturned. They may call witnesses themselves.

I think that recent revelations about the inaccuracies fostered by our system compel us to take a second look. Too many people have been unjustly convicted, some sentenced to long prison terms, as was Alton Logan, and others sentenced to die for crimes they did not commit. We cannot tolerate a system which does such a poor job of managing the administration of the people's justice and enforcement of the people's laws. For it must be clear—justice and the law belong to the people, not to the bar associations.

I am not advocating that we abandon what has worked for us. Instead, I think that we should take a look at what hasn't worked, and why, and take reasoned steps to correct the flaws in the way our courts operate. If that means making some fundamental changes, then we should not hesitate to do so. We must make our court system work, or it will become increasingly irrelevant and so will our laws.

Same Old Rock 'n' Roll?

Comments on "Chicago, the Next Austin" by Deanna Isaacs, The Business

Leonel:

I live in both Austin and Chicago, and you are wrong. If you are talking about filling up the United Center and making mucho cash, you are on the right track. Though Chicago does inspire and produce some original music, the average Joe here wants consistent replays of the 80s. Chicago is simply too busy making a living, all we would eventually get is Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd reunions. Austin's small-town appeal is that the average Joe there seems to play at least one instrument and everyone is always looking for something different.

Chicago has yet to give me something different. Though diverse it is still dominated by the same old rock 'n' roll. It ignores the inner city, it ignores itself and lives in a perpetual la la land

kyanize:

"Leonel," please! Don't confuse the differences between the size of the cities (and resulting concert promotions) with the differences between their passion for music.

Austin has established a reputation for its music scene (mostly because of SXSW) and therefore draws musicians and those who support music. However, at my work at a large downtown Chicago hotel I've met people from Austin before the big surge in population who definitely were not excited about the nature of Austin's music scene. In fact, I would guess that if its population were larger, Austin would support a stadium venue for touring acts.

The whole idea that it is dominated by "the same old rock 'n' roll" is absurd unless you only look to see what's available at large venues. Seriously, if you don't like your options here, do something about it. Join the freakin' Chicago Music Commission." Or just go back to Austin.

Correction

In "Bureaucrat or Showboat?" (January 31) Ed Smith was incorrectly identified as alderman for the 25th Ward; he's alderman for the 28th Ward.

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