Expensive lawyers

I had to go to criminal court earlier this week. My client and I waited around from around 9 a.m. when court started to around 4 p.m. Unfortunately, this criminal court was so heavily booked that when the end of the day rolled around, the judge realized that it would be unrealistic to expect to get through all the cases. As a result, he apologized to everyone and then postponed a number of the cases until a later date, including mine.

There are a few different lessons we could perhaps learn from this episode, but I think one of them is that the government arrests too many people. This situation I experienced is hardly the only time I have shown up in court and seen things extremely crowded. It is not uncommon to see a courtroom so crowded that people can barely even find anywhere to sit down. When society gets to the point where courts can barely even handle all the cases thrown at them by the police, we should question whether we are criminalizing too much of life itself.

I have heard that upwards of ninety percent of criminal convictions are the result of guilty pleas and various plea bargains. So what this means is that, even when barely any of our cases actually involve real jury trials, the courts still are overloaded. To me, this situation indicates a problem.

Practically speaking, this ineffecient courtroom setup also hampers the economy by jacking up the price of legal fees. If a lawyer expects to have to spend five or more hours just coming to court for one case (even if he only argues in front of the judge for maybe twenty minutes), he will generally raise his prices to compensate for his loss of time. Lawyers have to study a long time, and are a valuable and expensive resource. Courts are a valuable resource as well. By arresting so many people and overcrowding the courts, we are forcing people to squander valuable resources and to waste money doing so.

Such are the costs of the government’s overregulation of life.

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13 Responses to “Expensive lawyers”


  1. 1 Foxfier December 17, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Having people actually serve their sentence– I don’t know about bigger places, but I do know a large number of folks at home are arrested months before their supposed sentence was supposed to end. (And that’s before the “cost cutting” measures.)

    Bringing back mental institutions, I’ve heard there’s a decent number of street-folks who are insane and can’t integrate with the culture.

    Reform the law around suing to get fewer @#$@## gold-digger or harassment by law cases.

    Cut down on appeal abuse.

    Get the Feds to do their job and stop making the courts deal with illegals.

    Not sure how one would DO all of these things, but it’s no less vague than “don’t arrest folks for so many things.”

    I’ve got my story about how my car was broken into, cleaned out and they took my tire… a very nice detective brought back my tire and told me they’d caught the gang who did it because one of them threw a fit over his share of the weed and called the cops on the others, there were dozens of stolen radios but they hadn’t found mine in the bunch. Over two years later, I get a letter that says they’d just been found guilty…and they would have a suspended sentence of community service.
    Adult men, breaking into cars, part of a drug smuggling group, and they didn’t spend any more time in jail than it took for the bail guy to get over there. Do you think they suddenly became law-abiding citizens, or that the lack of response meant there were more arrests in the future?

  2. 2 Drew December 17, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    //Not sure how one would DO all of these things, but it’s no less vague than “don’t arrest folks for so many things.”//

    I definitely think American society is overcriminalized. Here is a book I have heard about that discusses the topic, although I haven’t gotten a chance to look at it yet myself:
    http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/1594032556

    //Having people actually serve their sentence–//

    I’m not sure what you mean by this. Also, I’m not sure how it would cut down on legal costs or otherwise help the economy.

    People get different amounts of jail time on their sentence (as opposed to probation time) depending on how bad their crime was. Also, people can often get paroled out early from prison so that the prison system will be able to offer the prisoners an incentive to behave.

  3. 3 Foxfier December 17, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    I agree it’s over criminalized, I just think it’s also under-punishing actual criminals.

    I mean that people go to court. They are sentenced to X time. They get out in a fraction of X time, and are back in court before they were supposed to get out. That means that instead of Career Criminal #23523 serving his time and only consuming one court-case slot, he consumes at least two and doesn’t even serve his time.

  4. 4 Dan Trabue February 16, 2011 at 10:24 am

    I’ve been reading through your posts and finally came to this one where I can agree with you some. At least I think so.

    I’m curious: What “crimes” would you like to decriminalize?

    I think we need laws in a civil society to ensure that folk don’t harm others. Thus, laws that penalize behaviors that are harmful to others are a good thing.

    In that vein, drunk driving, reckless driving (including speeding), theft, murder, assault… these are rightfully criminalized.

    But drug crimes and prostitution seem to me to be two examples of areas that we could remove from the list of crimes and reduce the overload in our prison and court systems. Of course, any behavior that harms others (driving while intoxicated, for instance) would still be criminal, but not merely smoking a joint.

    What would you decriminalize?

  5. 5 Drew February 16, 2011 at 10:46 am

    The DUI BAC should be higher than .08. The traffic laws should be overhauled and reformed. Possession of marijuana should possibly be legalized. In cases of assault, self-defense and consent should be more broadly recognized by the police, prosecutors, and courts. “Harassment” should not be a crime. People need to man up. Bearing handguns without a permit should not be a crime.

    I think prostitution is clearly wicked and should be prohibited because it degrades morals. Theft should be punished more severely than it typically is. Murder should receive the death penalty. Perjury should be severely punished because it is terribly destructive. Making false charges to the police should be severely punished.

  6. 6 Dan Trabue February 16, 2011 at 11:03 am

    So, we agree that, at least to a degree, our drug laws ought to be toned down. But beyond that, I don’t see what laws you’d like to do away with to end what you called the “government’s overregulation of life.”

    I think “reasonable harm” is a good measuring line. We outlaw or regulate behaviors that might reasonably be considered dangerous to others. Speeding, theft, perjury, drunk driving, poisoning water and air, etc.

    We deregulate/decriminalize that which does NOT cause harm. Drug usage, prostitution, marriage (gay or straight), perhaps trespassing on property?, jaywalking?, being a foreigner, etc.

    What is your measuring line? Since you include prostitution in as something that ought to remain criminal, you aren’t using harm to others as a measure. You seem to be trying to apply some faith-based reasoning, which would seem to open up gov’t to even MORE over-regulation of life, not less…

  7. 7 Drew February 16, 2011 at 11:14 am

    //What is your measuring line?//

    Actions that are significantly immoral, or significantly destructive and somewhat immoral should be criminalized. And yes, I base my determinations on the Bible.

    //But beyond that, I don’t see what laws you’d like to do away with to end what you called the “government’s overregulation of life.”//

    I already listed multiple things for you just in a brief response. If we just raised the DUI BAC to .12, that would eliminate a good number of charges. If we just decriminalized marijuana, that would eliminate a good number of charges. If we reformed the traffic laws, that would eliminate a great deal of people’s interactions with the police. What exactly do you want me to do, give you my ideal version of the entire Tennessee Code?

    //Speeding, theft, perjury, drunk driving, poisoning water and air, etc.//

    I also think we should be able to kill endangered species on our property, and burn as much C02 as we want. There’s another couple for you. And I think everyone should be allowed to own guns, regardless of criminal history.

  8. 8 Dan Trabue February 16, 2011 at 11:23 am

    Well then, it appears we are basing our support for limiting gov’t on different criteria. I support outlawing/criminalizing behavior that is harmful to others. Thus, your “right” to kill endangered species and pollute would be crossing that line.

    You on the other hand, appear to want to create a theocracy where you and those who agree with your hunches make laws on a rather whimsical basis (ie, you’d criminalize what you think the bible condemns, and if other Christians or citizens disagree with your hunches, they’re out of luck?). At least that’s what it sounds like.

    I don’t think such whimsy is a good approach to creating law, nor does it meet with our historic view of Natural Rights.

  9. 9 Foxfier February 16, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Ah, I see- the “reasonable” line is what you want to be able to do, what you think is harmful.

    Love how property rights get the short end of the stick.

  10. 10 Dan Trabue February 16, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    No, I’m sorry if you have misunderstood, if I wasn’t clear. I’m advocating the position that those actions which can demonstrably and reasonably be demonstrated to cause harm or at least potentially cause harm ought to be outlawed/regulated.

    Driving drunk we can reasonably consider to be dangerous to others. I’m willing to debate the specifics (.08? 1.0?), but because the potential for harm is SO great when you’re driving around a two ton potentially explosive vehicle, my personal standards would be pretty high.

    But again, that is based upon the great potential for great harm to innocent bystanders.

    Where is the harm in someone smoking a joint? Where is the harm in cutting across someone’s farm? Where is the harm in a foreigner trying to find work here?

    Are you also suggesting that “harm or potential harm” is not a good criteria for legislating behavior? The whole, “Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose” argument is not compelling to you?

    To be clear: I’m a tea-totaling Christian who loves the Bible and have studied it closely for most of my nearly 50 years. I strive to live by Christian principles, following in the steps of Jesus.

    Having said that, I am opposed to efforts to implement by legislation the notions of various Christians as to what God wants. I fully support Christians striving to live Christian lives and ideals, but I think a much more reasonable criteria for GOV’T’s to look for legislation is merely that which causes harm.

    I fall into the anabaptist tradition (refuse to say pledges, belief in simple lifestyle, refuse to kill our enemies or their children, belief in sharing what we have, etc) and I think these teachings are THE right way to go, THE right way to live. But striving to implement them by force of law? I don’t see that as wise or Christian.

    And if I don’t want to try to legislate even MY Christian ideals, I certainly don’t want other Christians with differing opinions to try to legislate their ideals (criminalizing gay marriage, saying it’s okay to nuke other nations, etc). It just seems like a very poor idea to me.

  11. 11 Foxfier February 16, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    No, I’m sorry if you have misunderstood, if I wasn’t clear. I’m advocating the position that those actions which can demonstrably and reasonably be demonstrated to cause harm or at least potentially cause harm ought to be outlawed/regulated.

    Yes, and then you define what’s harmful enough to be regulated, and what risks are fine to force on others, and what kind of harms are worth regulating.

    Thus, it’s what you want to do, what you think is harmful.

    You’ve clearly never been run off the road by someone who was smoking a joint, or seen the damage caused when someone with a marajuana habit operates heavy machinery. Doesn’t grab the headlines as much. You also ignore the very real harm that prostitution causes.

    Guess you’re too busy accusing folks of wanting to start a theocracy and being “whimsical” about their basis to examine your me-ocracy and own “whimsical” basis.

    I notice you are now shifting to yattering on about how wonderful you are, as if it has the least bit to do with the quality of your argument.

    Standard pattern: personal attack on someone you disagree with, and then self-praising. You’re not worth the time.

  12. 12 Dan Trabue February 16, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    You’ve clearly never been run off the road by someone who was smoking a joint, or seen the damage caused when someone with a marajuana habit operates heavy machinery.

    I stated quite clearly that HARMFUL behavior caused by intoxication should rightly be regulated/outlawed. Thus, drunk driving or driving while impaired are BOTH harmful or potentially harmful behaviors and ought to be criminalized.

    So, we agree there then, right?

    I notice you are now shifting to yattering on about how wonderful you are, as if it has the least bit to do with the quality of your argument.

    I’m not sure where this is coming from or what you or speaking of here. I am just another poor sinner, a flawed human being in need of grace. I am not sure where you think we disagree. Perhaps if you could explain what you mean by any of this, I could better understand.

    As children of God, as well as fellow citizens, I think we ALL are worth the time it takes to better understand one another.

  13. 13 Dan Trabue February 16, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    it’s what you want to do, what you think is harmful.

    Not at all. We both seem to agree that impaired driving is harmful and should be criminalized. Why should it be criminalized? Because the Bible says so? No. It should be criminalized because it is dangerous to innocent people to have someone driving impaired.

    Reasonable people can all agree upon this point, don’t you think? Thus, if we can agree, then it’s not really whimsical thinking at all to want to legislate a harmful behavior like impaired driving.

    Now, trying to decide a “line” to draw what constitutes “impaired” can be tricky and subjective, but that’s not an argument for not drawing the line.

    Regardless, my point is that we ought to legislate against those behaviors that reasonable adults can agree are dangerous or potentially dangerous.

    Do you disagree with THAT point?


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