It’s a really cool time to be a law student. Kelo, Bong Hits for Jesus, Casey Anthony, and Westboro Baptist Church, just to name a few. A couple we’ve gotten to study, where classes a few years ago did not, and the last two we’ve witnessed as they have gone down in the history books.
I think that most folks give lawyers a bad name. Most think that all of us are out there, trying to save that guilty person from pure damnation in jail. The reality is that most of us are not defense attorneys or personal injury attorneys. The majority are either contractual, transactional, or minor defense types who would never really do a murder case.
Today’s Casey Anthony verdict was, in a way, sad to me, but I can see where the jury didn’t have enough to convict beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s sad because a little girl who was obviously killed or who died under strange circumstances has no real happy ending, regardless of what her mother did or did not do. That’s a prosecutor’s job – to be the voice of the victim and make the best case he or she can for that victim, the victim’s family, or the state. For a defense attorney, he or she has the same job – to make the best possible outcome for his or her client, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the person. If an attorney knows his client is guilty, the job becomes to make the best possible deal – plea bargain or otherwise – that his or her client can possibly get.
The laws are not made by the lawyers. They are made by the legislators. People also tend to forget that a bit. They blame lawyers for all sorts of bad things. They don’t realize, though, until they or their family members are in trouble, how handy a lawyer can really be.
I think of how I would feel if Casey was my sister. I would want the best possible outcome for her, and I would also want the system to be as fair for her as it would have been if I had been a victim’s sister. It doesn’t seem that way, when you’re in the thick of it, but the laws are meant to protect the freedom of us all. For the bad of society, they get to ride those same constitutional coattails to keep freedom in their own lives.
There are many societies in which common law (case-made law) doesn’t apply. The rules are always the same, and the laws never really change unless the legislators change them. Imagine a society like that, where the judges’ rulings don’t really have an effect on the outcome of the next case in that same jurisdiction, yet under a different judge. The unfairness of it is obvious to me, although some will say that our current system is fraught with unfairness.
It just depends on which side of the apple you peel first.