Reforms That Will
Citizens can change the legal system so that real justice is available and affordable for all. Legislators can be lobbied and convinced to make necessary law changes to bring about these reforms, and those legislators who refuse to budge can themselves, be replaced. The many good judges who serve with distinction can work from the inside to bring needed reform, once they feel the public wrath over the current system.
Part III (Please see the book outline) of the book proposes doable reforms among which is public disclosure of misdeeds and injustices. Judges and bureaucrats are human (really) and fear being embarrassed. Forcing them by law to disclose the details of their activities is a powerful deterrant to improper actions and behavior. Loss of pay, fines, suspensions and removal from office also will provide strong incentives for judges to do the job right.
An extremely important reform is to get politics out of the judge selection and re-election process. We can accomplish this with a merit plan like that referred to as the "Missouri Plan" because Missouri was the first of sixteen states to adopt such a plan. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote positively about this plan in the case of REPUBLICAN PARTY OF MINN. V. WHITE (01-521) 536 U.S. 765 (2002). This case concerned a candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court, Gregory Wersal, who won the right to be able to state his positions on issues as part of an election campaign. Prior to his decision, incredibly, candidates for judge could not tell the voters their positions on the issues!
A chapter in Part III tells how we can greatly reduce the cost of justice for nearly everyone by simplifying and expediting court procedures. Some of the proposed methods are to provide public services to facilitate fact-finding, improve the use of mediation and arbitration at less expense, authorize resolution of child custody and visitation and marital property distribution by nonpartisan experts, and, similarly, rely on nonpartisan experts to determine damages awards in personal injury cases. Health care and insurance costs will be reduced if we put limits on awards for damages to what is reasonable. Simplifying and expediting court procedures as proposed above will substantially reduce out-of-sight amounts for lawyers fees.
We can and we should greatly expand the number of public defenders and increase their resources to assure that every person accused of a crime no matter how poor will be adequately defended. We must do the same in juvenile court proceedings to assure that every litigant in such a proceeding is effectively represented, especially in cases that involve the custody of a child. It is critical that public defenders be fully independent of and free from pressure by county authorities.
We can and should abolish campaign contributions for judges. We can replace such financing with public financing as in New Mexico. As an alternative, we can discourage this obvious ploy for judge favoritism by barring lawyers and law firms from appearing before judges they supported financially. The Minnesota Supreme Court by itself could abolish the obnoxious rule that allows judges to accept $150 gratuities.
Report cards at judge re-election time will give the voting public a basis for deciding on whether or not to re-elect a judge for office. A special court to try judges that can award damages to victims of clearly wrongful actions would sharply curtail judge misbehavior.
Report cards at judge re-election time will give the voting public a basis for deciding on whether or not to re-elect a judge to office. A special court to try judges that can award damages to victims of clearly wrongful actions would sharply curtail judge misbehavior.
There is only one way we can get the justice we want: boot judges out of office. What is most important to a judge, even more than providing justice, is staying in office. Judges cherish the power and prestige of their office. They bask in the reverence and deferential treatment they expect and often demand. Accountability for their decisions is a reform all will fiercely resist. All judges prefer the current easy re-election process. They do not want voters to challenge their performance. Regrettably, it is not practical to inform the average voter on which judges are good and which are bad. The only option is to vote against all incumbent judges until we have a new system.
Part III tells how we can boot judges out of office. It is surprisingly simple, but it will not be easy. According to the Minnesota Secretary of State, votes for a fictitious person, such as Mickey Mouse are counted and have the same validity as votes for anyone else. If Mickey Mouse get the most votes in a judge election or re-election, he wins and becomes judge. Since Mickey Mouse doesn't exist, a vacancy is declared and the governor appoints a new judge.
Every two years approximately one-third of all judges stand for re-election. In every election the ballot you receive has a line under the name of each incumbent judge for a write-in vote. If most of the votes are for the same fictitious person, the incumbent judge is defeated. We propose that you join other voters in casting a write in vote for "New Judge." Driving judges from office is a sure way to geth their attention and convince them of the public's insistence on reform.
It is not the means we lack to free society from injustice; it is a lack of knowledge and lack of determination to force change. In America, the people truly have power - the power to make our court and legal system what we want it to be. Minnesota can make its system what it ought to be - the world's and history's best system. If together we assert our power we can reach the goal of my book - affordable justice for all. Let the journey begin.