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What is fair in the justice system?

It is an old saying that our system of justice isn’t perfect, but it is better than any other. Some have said that there are different levels of justice and that “equal protection under the law” is not a reality. There are many opinions on both sides of the arguments.

We have often said that politics is all about power and money and it would be easy to place the same accusation about the current system of justice. This columnist is not a lawyer, so the commentary is strictly an opinion based on observation and evidence.

The laws in the United States are complex and there are many of them. The law libraries are filled with volumes of laws and decisions of trials to determine what is possible to accuse and how to defend against those charges. The more complex the laws, the more opportunities for abuse!

The average person has no idea of what most of the laws are and how they are enforced, but in spite of the fact that lawyers, and even judges, need to research laws in many cases, for the average Joe, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

A Russian member of the KGB was once quoted as saying; “show me the person, and I will find a law to convict him.” That seems to hold true even in America. We are watching how the complexities of the laws and the creative ways that power brokers use them, and that would confirm what the Russian said.

Going back to the level of perception of the laws, there is much controversy on enforcement of the laws. For decades, African Americans have claimed discrimination when it comes to law enforcement and how it appears to have a different standard involving them.

They talk about the arrests for “driving while black” and being stopped when they haven’t committed any violations, at least no violations, from their perspective. They claim that sentences for black people are more severe than for Caucasians convicted for the same crimes.

The laws also seem to favor the rich because they can hire the best lawyers. The case of O. J. Simpson would give credence to that opinion. Money is a big advantage when accused of a crime.

We are watching how the law can be used as a weapon when it comes to the bureaucrats and political operatives when they are on a quest to destroy President Donald Trump. What started as an investigation regarding collusion in the last election has turned into what many are now calling a “witch hunt.”

The laws are being used as a punishment without a crime. A local political operative has been vocal about how this has destroyed his life and his family. He has not been charged with any crime, but has been brought before the authorities as a witness for the “witch hunt.”

Anyone in that position should not agree to the questioning without hiring the services of a good attorney. However, the gentleman has gone broke with legal fees to the tune of about $125,000 without figuring time lost from work and transportation costs to DC to appear before the panel.

He has managed to get some support from citizens in “Go Fund Me” to recoup some of his losses, but many don’t have that kind of support for their losses.

When the bureaucracy or government calls for a witness or arrests a person accused of a crime, they are allowed to lie to extract information. Their lies are perfectly legal, but if the accused or witness lies to them, there can be charges of perjury which are difficult to deny or defend.

The odds greatly favor the government and it seems that every year, the legislators keep adding more laws that give the government more authority and takes more freedoms away from the citizens.

The issue of money is truly important when discussing the disparity of “equality” when it comes to legal proceedings. In New York, corruption cases draw special attention. Perhaps it is because in Albany, many consider it to be “business as usual” and the politicians have to really foul up before getting caught.

A couple of years ago two of the most powerful men in Albany, Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos were tried and convicted for corruption. They were sentenced to jail terms, but a decision involving a Virginia politician made it possible for the convicted criminals to have a new trial.

A decision made by a judge in another state was enough for a team of sharp lawyers to delay the prison sentence. Hopefully, for the citizens of the state, the accused will be reconvicted and the sentence carried out. Even if serving time, the politicians will still receive their generous pensions. When politicians make laws, they really know how to take care of themselves.

So, in the last couple of years the citizens have seen the abuses of the system and that an accusation can have as much punishment, at least financially, as a conviction. It takes years to get a federal case heard which makes a mockery of “justice delayed is justice denied.”

However, during the delays, he lawyers are still getting “billable hours” and the accused are trying to figure out how to pay them. If you don’t have the money to pay, you don’t get the necessary representation.

That is where the slogan of “we have the best laws that money can buy’ is said. The better the lawyer, the better the chance of winning! The less fortunate, without large resources, usually have to settle for a plea deal or face a maximum punishment.

Like in government, money doesn’t just talk. It yells! Unless the voters start screaming for better government and if the laws are not changed, they have to change the lawmakers. This is a good year and opportunity to do that. More ideas to follow.

Budd Schroeder