Ken Connor

The politicization of the justice system is a matter that should give every American pause. Truth be told, Republicans in general—and President Bush in particular—have shown themselves all too willing to inject politics into the justice system. Under the guise of "tort reform" Mr. Bush and some of his Republican allies, have sought to emasculate the role of juries in civil cases by putting in the "fix" in advance of the presentation of evidence in any given case. Acting at the behest of business and insurance lobbyists, the Bush administration has repeatedly sought to predetermine outcomes in the civil justice arena by passing legislation that would limit the liability of wrongdoers and to cap the damages awarded to their victims at a predetermined amount without regard to the evidence. These initiatives represent little more than affirmative action programs for wrongdoers. The deprivation of the right to trial by jury of injured victims who have suffered at the hands of the wrongdoers should not be permitted.

These efforts to manipulate outcomes in the civil justice arena reflect poorly on the Bush administration and on Republicans. Historically, decisions about outcomes in the civil arena have been left to juries drawn from the community who examine the law and the evidence without regard to politics. The jury system has been called the "bulwark of democracy" because decisions are to be based solely on the law and the evidence and not political considerations. Given the willingness that Mr. Bush and some of his allies have shown to shape outcomes in the civil justice arena, one is naturally left to wonder whether they have been willing to do the same in the criminal justice arena.

Americans should resist any attempts to manipulate outcomes in our justice system, either through laws that determine the outcome in advance, or by pressuring federal prosecutors by threatening their jobs. In either case, the judicial system is compromised. Lady Justice should not be allowed to peek out from behind her blindfold. She must remain blind to political matters when applying the law. Otherwise the phrase "equal justice for all" will become just another political nostrum devoid of any real meaning.


Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.
 


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