I’ve signed up for the Maine Law School Information Session next month. One gets to sit in on a couple of classes and then get the spiel on what a great school it is, and the benefits of having a law degree. I haven’t even looked at what such an education would cost. My goal at present is to sit in on an intro course such as Civil Procedure, with professor’s permission of course, which concerns how one goes about bringing a case to court, how to proceed with the trial, the appeal, if you lose. It’s a byzantine system of rules formulated to assure the process is fair and balanced, and to make sure you are properly respectful.
I am respectful of the law. It’s either that or the jungle, and in spite of 3 to 4 thousand years of written law, homo sapiens have hardly left the jungle in any meaningful way. Might still makes right much of the time. The earliest formulated laws depict societies dealing in a more direct way, “If the man had slept with the widow without there having been any marriage, he need not pay any silver.” This from the Ur-Nammu law code, Ur-Nammu being the king of Ur, established 300 years before Hammurabi.
Here’s another, “If a man violates the right of another and deflowers the virgin wife of a young man, they shall kill that male.” Primogenitor ruled. No more. Today a man whose virgin bride is faithless has only the legal recourse of having the marriage annulled as restitution.
One approaches the court system to resolve a problem that’s not possible by one’s own efforts. Ultimately, it’s not about winning or losing. One has simply invited a third party to look at the situation and apply relevant laws to resolve it. And beneath the situation presented there is a whole subtext, which is never discussed, but is really what this is about. There are many, many variables in impinging on the process; take for instance the sentence handed down this week to an actress for bribing officials to get her kid into college by falsifying the kid’s SAT scores. Two weeks in jail said the judge. Yet Tanya McDowell, by simply changing the address so her son could get accepted in a better school got a 5-year jail sentence for what she did. https://www.rt.com/usa/468786-huffman-sentence-college-scandal/
Did I mention that Tanya is black and the actress is white? Is it the color of their skin, their material wealth or lack thereof, their geographical location that decided their fate?
I happen to believe in magic, that the world is possessed of energy that operates in ways that do not follow our systems of right and wrong, of just or unjust. Whatever the outcome of a case, it is always the correct one. It is not just, it is not fair, but merely correct. Appropriate to your plaint, and you must now move on to the new direction pointed out by the court. Ms. McDowell, with no resources, will have to develop alternative means of dealing with society, or be so governed. The actress has been handed a life sentence; she and unfortunately, her daughter will be saddled with this character stain always, unless she chooses to step out of the bubble she’s been living in.
What I find most engaging in jurisprudence is my ability to be taken seriously, that I am able to write a summons, appropriately that is, following civil procedure and, open sesame, the courtroom doors open and we can proceed to discuss the issue I have brought before the judge. Writing a petition really sharpens one’s skill as a writer. One is writing for a total stranger concerning a complex problem with myriad details. That petition has to be as sharp and clean as you can possibly make it so the judge can visualize your unfolding scenario, supplemented by on-target evidence in an easily followed chronological sequence. And of course you want to make it interesting without getting flowery. Avoid playing the victim or righteous avenger, that’s the judge’s decision to make.
Every student should be taught the most basic rules of court procedures to master systems of logical thinking, to become a participant, not its target.
The favorite essay this month has been, The Queen of Hearts