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.