United States Justice System
By Pat Foster
During the French Revolution, the concept of communism first arose as equal treatment under the law by all classes of society. If a nobleman’s son and a serf’s son each injured another person, both should be treated equally under the law for the same crime.
The first and most important reason people first got together to create a government was to establish an equitable system for handling disputes between people. When we are in a court of law, we address the judge as “your honor” denoting a special place in our society that deals with justice. Does our system live up to these high ideals we place on our courts to render justice to its’ citizens?
Any system of justice must always weigh more heavily toward the law, than the ability of one party to use their financial resources to the detriment of their opponent. Judges must be forced to rule based upon the law with few exceptions.
Michigan Election Law, MCL 169.235(2) allows all elected judges to opt out of filing their campaign finance reports. This provides the judges with a tax free account for large contributions that can sway decisions while they are on the bench. This law creates a possibility that you can have corruption within the legal system.
Your next logical question is that these campaign finance accounts are all public documents open to public inspection through the Freedom of Information Act known as FOIA. All public documents are specifically subject to a FOIA inspection unless they are specifically exempted under the act. MCL 15.243(1)(r) specifically states: “Records of a campaign committee including a committee that receives money from a state campaign fund” is one of the exemptions under this act. Since the judges are the only persons exempt from filing campaign finance reports, the state legislators have specifically exempted them public inspection through the Freedom of Information Act. This provides an almost impenetrable tax free account for judges to receive large contributions from parties that come before them including law firms.
While Michigan has a high probability for a corrupted system of justice, what does it say for the other states? If you are a judge taking bribes as campaign contributions, it usually means that the party bribing him does not have the law on their side of the argument. When a judge makes a decision on a case in direct opposition to the law, it is called an abuse of discretion. If you want to disqualify a judge for an abuse of discretion, you cannot do it. The United States Supreme Court in Caperton v. The A.T. Massey Coal Company established a standard for disqualification of a judge. You must prove not only an abuse of discretion, but an “extraordinary circumstance” that goes along with it. Prior to Caperton, there was no real way you could get a judge to disqualify themselves, but apparently so many judges have abused their campaign finance accounts for even the U.S. Supreme Court to accept it.