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Ask Slashdot: How Can Technology Improve the Judicial System? 183

An anonymous reader writes One of the cornerstones of any democracy is its judicial system. Fortunately, most of us never have to deal with it. On the other hand, the fact that we so seldom interact with it also means that most of us are not constantly thinking about it. It is possible our judicial system would be much better if most of us had to spend more time thinking about it. I myself had not put much thought into it until I watched a documentary about Aaron Swartz. It is frightening to think that someone could have been left in a position like that. I also hear about so many cases were people end up pleading guilty because they do not have enough money to fight a case in court. Is this really the best we can do? The Marshal Project is also an interesting source of information regarding the shortfalls of our current system.

What do you think about it? How can we improve our judicial system? Is there any interesting way that technology could be used to improve the system?
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Ask Slashdot: How Can Technology Improve the Judicial System?

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  • by u38cg ( 607297 ) <> on Saturday February 21, 2015 @01:26PM (#49101019) Homepage
    It is a question of vested interests and poor incentives. Elected judges and elected prosecutors - how can you not end up with poor decisions? Poorly thought through kneejerk laws, like asset forfeiture and three strike life sentences - how can you have justice with a system like this?
    • Elected judges and elected prosecutors - how can you not end up with poor decisions?

      And the alternative would be what? Have them appointed by an old German woman because she has a gold hat that her father gave her? Next thing you know it's death panels in hospitals, mandatory gay marriage and Sharia law zones.

      Americans are armed precisely to prevent that kind of thing happening over here.

      • And the alternative would be what?

        The alternative is to have them appointed, which is what many jurisdictions do. Most American states do NOT have elected judges. The federal govt also does not elect judges or prosecutors, they are appointed. Federal judges are usually appointed for life.

        I have see no evidence that appointed judges are "better" than elected judges in any significant way, or that elected judges are more likely to make "poor decisions" as the GPP claimed. So I don't think "elected vs appointed" is the root problem.

        • I have see no evidence that appointed judges are "better" than elected judges in any significant way,

          The idea is to remove them from external influence. Once appointed, you cannot be fired for a ruling people dont like, which makes it far easier to rule on "what the law is" rather than "what someone else wants it to be".

          Elected judges would be an absolutely abysmal idea. Judges being elected is why theyre able to continually smack down overreach in areas of first, second, and fourth amendments. They dont always make the right call-- but they arent in lock-step with the other two branches, which is an in

          • Elected judges would be an absolutely abysmal idea.

            22 American states have partisan elections for trail judges. The other 28 do not. There is no evidence that these 22 are better or worse, much less "abysmally" worse.

            Judges being elected is why they're able to continually smack down overreach in areas of first, second, and fourth amendments.

            Most of those "smackdowns" occur in federal court, where both judges and prosecutors are appointed, not elected.

            • Elected judges would be an absolutely abysmal idea.

              22 American states have partisan elections for trail judges. The other 28 do not. There is no evidence that these 22 are better or worse, much less "abysmally" worse.

              Judges being elected is why they're able to continually smack down overreach in areas of first, second, and fourth amendments.

              Most of those "smackdowns" occur in federal court, where both judges and prosecutors are appointed, not elected.

              There's plenty of evidence, but not a lot of rigorously analyzed data.

        • Federal judges are usually appointed for life.

          No, that's a common misconception. According to the Constitution, Federal judges "... shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour..."

          There's absolutely nothing in there about the appointments being for life.

          • by grcumb ( 781340 )

            Federal judges are usually appointed for life.

            No, that's a common misconception. According to the Constitution, Federal judges "... shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour..." There's absolutely nothing in there about the appointments being for life.

            Practically speaking, 'during Good Behaviour' means, 'You can't fire this person for any reason but malfeasance.' In other words, there is no term of employment. In other words, it's an appointment for life.

      • by Trepidity ( 597 )

        The American tradition of liberty is not one of unrestricted direct democracy, aka mob rule, but of an ordered republic with checks and balances and structural limits on what can be accomplished via elections. At the Founding, judges were not elected; that is a recent (20th-century) innovation in some state and local court systems, not traditionally part of the American approach to the justice system. Juries were selected from amongst one's peers, and judges were appointed for life tenures, from among those

      • by readin ( 838620 )
        Having them randomly selected, like the jury pool, might not be a bad idea. Or at least have the people who appoint the judges be randomly selected.
        • Having them randomly selected, like the jury pool, might not be a bad idea.

          That would be an awful idea. We would lose crucial protections within 10 years because these untrained judges would have no conception of the reason for things like "double jeopardy" and "protection from self incrimination".

          The only reason we have a 2nd amendment still is because SCOTUS is filled with old people who dont GAF what Chicago and DC have to say about the dangers of guns; they know the law, and they know overreach when they see it. You think a randomly elected individual would have the fortitud

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Saturday February 21, 2015 @01:53PM (#49101159)
      All laws should be in a central repository, unique and complete for each jurisdiction. That would be a technical solution to a very real problem. "Ignorance of the law is not a defense" is a lie. The police get to say it. They can arrest you for something legal, then claim ignorance of the law, and their actions are legal.

      Since case law is law in the Common Law system, having all the cases indexed and assigned jurisdictionally, that would help the judges and legal professionals make better decisions. Yes, I'm aware that private companies already perform that action for a profit. But I shouldn't be forced to pay profit to a private company just to find the law that applies to me.

      The problem with the system is the system. The prosecutor is paid to get convictions. Not to find the truth. A conviction of an innocent person is a win. Finding the guilty person, but being unable to prove it is a loss. For tech to help our system, the system would have to change. Tech is fact-based. Our judicial system is uninterested in fact.

      Oh, and plea bargains are torture.
      • I'm pretty sure all regulations are available on the internet. you're right, it's harder to access cases for free, although it can be done. but considering that if you have a real need to be doing case research, you likely have a lot of money on the line anyway, there's no real fault to paying a bit to access cases online.

        also there's systems for filing case briefs online.

        it's true the prosecutor gets paid to get convictions. the heart of the justice system is the adversary system. for every prosecutor ther

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Saturday February 21, 2015 @02:48PM (#49101471)

          I'm pretty sure all regulations are available on the internet.

          Nope. Local building code laws refer to NECA as having force of law, but NECA isn't available online. The law is privately written, privately held, and I must pay money to a company to be able to read the law. NECA isn't making it hard to make the law obfuscated, but is obfuscating the law so DIYers will be scared, and hire a NECA member to do the work. Similar things happen with regulations from the FCC, FAA, IRS and others with force of law, but aren't law. Sure, you can look up most. But it's hard, and "recommendations" are mixed in with "law" in a manner that is hard to differentiate.

          it's true the prosecutor gets paid to get convictions. the heart of the justice system is the adversary system.

          The state prosecutors are better funded than the state defenders. That, and the adversary system isn't the only system. If we aren't going to do it right, there are other systems that fail more gracefully than ours.

          • What you're hinting at in both examples but not saying outright is the need for lawyers, which means money. Our current regilatory and justice system requires people to hire a lawyer. This has nothing to do with access to records and won't change regardless of the technology used.

          • Have you actually looked?

            Building codes for DC metro area:
            Virginia building code []
            DC building code []
            MD codes (incl building) []

            Law for DC metro area:
            Virginia law []
            DC Code / law []
            MD Laws and statutes

            Fighting ignorance and BS on slashdot could easily be a full-time job; theres no shortage of people who will talk out of their rear about things they have no information on.

            • MD laws and statutes didnt come out, link here

            • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
              "The District of Columbia adopts the International Codes (I-Codes) published by the International Code Council (ICC), and the National Electrical Code (NEC) published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)"

              So the adopted the NEC, but I didn't see a spot on the site to see the NEC as adopted.

              The NFPA maintains a "free" repository, but you can't browse it. You can only look up specific ones, after you create an account and jump through hoops. They charge for it in book form, and maintain copyr
              • From that site:

                On March 28, 2014, the District of Columbia adopted 11 of the 2012 I-Codes and the NFPA’s 2011 NEC with changes, deletions, and/or additions set forth in the 2013 Construction Codes Supplement, 12 DCMR, Subtitles A through L. []
                Hyperlink and bolding added.

                It appears that the full NECA is NOT available, but the parts adopted into law for particular areas ARE.

              • I am begrudgingly an NFPA member. What they offer now is a huge step forward from where they were 5 years ago; at least the information is there. I have purchased dozens of different standards for the office.

                One of my favorite possessions though (well, maybe not really) is my pirated PDF copy of the handbook. I strongly suggest anyone with an interest get it. I understand the need to protect the publishing revenue, but for non commercial use, or if you own a copy, go for it!

        • by swell ( 195815 )

          "I'm pretty sure all regulations are available on the internet."

          You may find it interesting that the Municipal Code for my current city, and probably yours, is a copyrighted document prepared by a private company. Illegal for you to make a copy without paying them. Our city doesn't have the resources to create such a document. The publisher is able to create a generic municipal code and then make minor alterations for individual cities.

          I worked for the private law firm that wrote the Chicago municipal code.

          • Perhaps you can push for a city ordinance to put all the municipal codes up on the city website. that sounds like a good sunshine law.

      • That helps, but it doesn't solve another issue: Law is really, really complex. Book after book of precident on every subject, and the laws themselves can be the length of a novel, often only granting power to regulations that can be changed more easily. Laws can have interactions, and often run into conflict with other laws - especially in the US, where federal and state governments are actively trying to subvert another a lot of the time. That's why lawyers exist: Because the subject is far more complicate

        • How about an amendment that says "No law can be passed that can't be fully understood and explained by any random High School graduate in less than 45 minutes."

          Then you might get a nice side effect of wanting to increase education at the pre-college level.

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          When the law is in a single place, and people see that the law that pertains to them is tens of thousands of pages long, and changes faster than any human can read it.
      • by grcumb ( 781340 )

        All laws should be in a central repository, unique and complete for each jurisdiction.

        They are, pretty much everywhere else in the World. It's ironic that the Legal Information Institute [], the first attempt to collect legal materials online, is based at Cornell, but it's severely limited in what it can publish, because most jurisdictions can't or won't agree with the idea that cases, legislation and regulation should be freely available to anyone, any time. Free access to law [] is considered by some to be a basic right. But not in the USA.

        Elsewhere, we have thriving online legal resources, incl

    • It is a question of vested interests and poor incentives. Elected judges and elected prosecutors - how can you not end up with poor decisions? Poorly thought through kneejerk laws, like asset forfeiture and three strike life sentences - how can you have justice with a system like this?

      It is, although a lot of the vested interests and poor incentives problem is not arising at that level. Almost everyone working in the system is trying to do a good job with too few resources, but incentives shape behavior and cause problems even when people are trying to do that.

      A basic problem with democracies is that they overcriminalize because elected people want to look like they are doing something about crime. We've known this for centuries, going back to Jeremy Bentham, but there is still very li

    • I think the question was more about "How can technology improve upon the bad judicial system?". My first thought was "heat seeking missiles".
  • Promis (Score:5, Informative)

    by handy_vandal ( 606174 ) on Saturday February 21, 2015 @01:29PM (#49101035) Homepage Journal

    Promis []:

    In the mid-1970s, Inslaw developed for the United States Department of Justice a highly efficient, people-tracking, computer program known as Prosecutor's Management Information System (Promis). Inslaw's principal owners, William Anthony Hamilton and his wife, Nancy Burke Hamilton, later sued the United States Government (acting as principal to the Department of Justice) for not complying with the terms of the Promis contract and for refusing to pay for an enhanced version of Promis once delivered. This allegation of software piracy led to three trials in separate federal courts and two congressional hearings.

    During ensuing investigations, the Department of Justice was accused of deliberately attempting to drive Inslaw into Chapter 7 liquidation; and of distributing and selling stolen software for covert intelligence operations of foreign governments such as Canada, Israel, Singapore, Iraq, Egypt, and Jordan; and of becoming directly involved in murder.

    Later developments implied that derivative versions of Enhanced Promis sold on the black market may have become the high-tech tools of worldwide terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden and international money launderers and thieves.

  • The system is working just as the system wants to work. If you have money, it is kind to you. If you do not have money, it will grind you down and hopefully in the process transfer what little money you do have to the system.
    • I think for the most part you have that backwards. If you have money the system takes it from you, if you don't have money it will take your time from you.

  • Robotic judges and robotic lawyers. Just what we need... []

    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      I was wondering if this Tales From and Parallel Universe / LEXX clip was going to appear...
    • by sconeu ( 64226 )

      The problem with robotic judges is that inevitably, you will get Robot Santa Syndrom.

  • the delusion that you can get justice against the State when the STATE owns the court is fucking ludicrous.

  • My two cents... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 21, 2015 @01:40PM (#49101083)

    Technology probably isn't the key. But here is what I'd like to see...

    1. A constitutional right to privacy from arrest to conviction for those who choose such. That way good names don't get tainted. (Just look at this: )
    2. An effort to make it more about reform than punishing people.
    3. Eliminate mandatory sentencing. Rename it as "suggested". I think one issue is granting smaller sentences to people you "favor", hence why mandatory sentencing perhaps was created?
    4. Start paying those who serve on juries (actually in the courtroom) minimum wage. (Or is this would be a financial disaster, only on days 3+.)
    5. We talk about requiring coding in schools. How about requiring something that might make a difference? A law course. Nothing big, but just to get people familiar with it as much as a 90 credit hour class would cover.
    6. The six-month thing required for jury trials in so many places should be scrapped. Allow a jury trial for any length of potential incarceration. See:

    • You're missing the point of the constitution if you think that privacy between arrest and conviction is what the Founders wanted.

      They weren't worried about a reputation being dragged through the mud, because if your reputation was dragged through the mud back in 1789 you could always move to another state and make it anew.

      They were very worried that the Second President would use the legal system to bully his opponents into submission and become a Dictator. Thus the Executive would have to document why he w

      • by dryeo ( 100693 )

        For some contrast, in Canada the Constitutional limit for trail by jury is 5 years. Maximum sentence 5 years less a day, no jury. Maximum sentence 5 years plus a day, the defendant can elect trial by jury, his choice. No sentence is exactly 5 years.
        Not sure how I feel about this, in some ways it is good, especially as generally we have good judges in Canada. On the other hand, a jury seems like a right. For civil cases you have to (partially?) pay for the jury and is rare I believe but I'm not very knowledg

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )

      Eliminate mandatory sentencing. Rename it as "suggested". I think one issue is granting smaller sentences to people you "favor", hence why mandatory sentencing perhaps was created?

      The point of mandatory sentencing was to remove "undesireables" from society without calling the prisons poor houses. [] A guy sentenced to life for stealing $2.50 in socks. That was the minimum sentence for his situation.

      • Eliminate mandatory sentencing. Rename it as "suggested". I think one issue is granting smaller sentences to people you "favor", hence why mandatory sentencing perhaps was created?

        The point of mandatory sentencing was to remove "undesireables" from society without calling the prisons poor houses. [] A guy sentenced to life for stealing $2.50 in socks. That was the minimum sentence for his situation.

        It's politics. When something happens most of the Senate and House and the President had to go along with it. This means that frequently they vote the same way on a bill for opposite reasons.

        When mandatory sentencing was passed, for example, Conservatives liked the tough-on-crime angle. Liberals liked that Judges would no longer have the ability to let a pretty white middle-class girl off with a slap because she reminded the Judge of his daughter, while still sending black guys away for decades because they

      • Bullshit - he was sentenced to life for being a 3 strike criminal under the California penal code.

        Regardless of whether you like the general concept or not, no one was sentenced to life for a "minor" crime. The juries in all these cases had to decide additional questions beyond the initial crime for which he was arrested and charged.

        After voting for a conviction for the crime that caused an arrest the jury then had to come to another independent and unanimous decision on a second conviction for the crime of

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          I saw nothing in the case I pointed to that indicated anything you say is true. I have a link to where a guy was sentenced to life for $2.50 in socks. You've given nothing but unsubstantiated opinion to counter documented fact.
          • Here's the proposed law [] as voted on by California voters in 1994. You can go to page 64 to read it yourself.

            From the law, "...if a defendant has been convicted of a felony and it has been pled and proved that the defendant has one or more prior felony convictions, as defined in subdivision(b), the court shall adhere to each of the following:..."

            To be pled and proved means the district attorney has to present evidence to the jury that the defendant has committed the prior felonies that would impose the har

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Catch with a rehabilitative system versus a punitive punishment system is, what do you do with people who do not rehabilitate. So minimum length sentences with extensions for those who fail to rehabilitate and for those who will never rehabilitate, life extensions. Logical but a little harsh, well, for the person in question not so harsh for potential future victims. It is really horrible when a person is released after punitive punishment only to be further radicalised and then goes on to commit worse cri

  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Saturday February 21, 2015 @01:42PM (#49101095)
    Whose metric? Does improvement mean fewer false convictions or more convictions? Does improvement mean conviction rates remain the same but everyone gets a lollipop?
  • The judicial system is, at heart, a method of resolving disputes. Sometimes those are disputes between civilians (civil suits) and sometimes they are criminal cases, disputes between people and the state.

    The most obvious and easy place to start is with small claims courts. Commercial arbitration handles many disputes that would otherwise end up in small claims courts, but we don't exploit this anywhere near enough. Most people just rely on their bank to act as a dispute mediator via the credit card chargeba

    • by dkf ( 304284 )

      The UK is putting its judicial system under tremendous financial pressure at the moment, to the extent that some criminal cases are just being abandoned because there's insufficient money to run them. They're (finally!) starting to experiment with allowing small claims court cases to be resolved over the phone, and also looking at decriminalising TV license violations to reduce pressure on the system. But you get the idea - the judicial system innovates extremely slowly even when being sliced to the bone. So don't hold your breath.

      They're also moving the low-level courts to use a lot more technology to support them, things like video links so remand prisoners do not need to be brought to court, tablet computers with the legal texts on them in searchable form, that sort of thing. These are the sorts of things that technology can definitely help with, even though they definitely change the nature of justice somewhat.

  • guilt = ( rand() & 1 ) ? "Yes" : "No";
  • Technology can't (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NicBenjamin ( 2124018 ) on Saturday February 21, 2015 @01:50PM (#49101137)

    The problem with the Judicial system is partly a reflection of it's fundamental design, and partly a reflection of current American culture.

    Take the design issue. We have an adversarial system rather then an Inquisitorial system. This means that your defense is up to you, the government's sole job is to convict you, and the Judge's only job is to call balls and strikes. Which means that if you're poor in America, and you don't have a lawyer who can go over every single piece of evidence with a fine-tooth comb for Fourth Amendment violations, then de facto you don't have Fourth Amendment rights. The Judge is not allowed to force your lawyer to triple-check that the cops didn't fudge the info they put on a warrant application, your public defender probably only has 8 hours to deal with your entire case, so you're fucked. In France and some other countries the Judge is allowed a more active role, but to do that you have to give him more active role in the investigation, at which point the system becomes an Inquisitorial system. And in the US we're reflexively Protestant, so we insist on remembering the Evils of the Spanish Inquisition (just as Queen Elizabeth I intended) and that's a non-starter.

    Note that this means that the only way a Judge has to convict somebody with really food rules lawyers in the US is think his way around Constitutional rights in ways rules lawyers can't counter (for example, the "good faith exception" to the Fourth Amendment says the cop had to know that he was violating the Fourth Amendment to get evidence thrown out) or nobody who makes more then $80k would ever be convicted. The muddle class thinks it always looks innocent, so $80k guy can can easily beat probable cause. But then there's a precedent the guy making $20k can't afford to reason around.

    And there's the ridiculous amounts of money we pay people with PhD-level degrees in lucrative fields, and a legal degree (or a Juris Doctorate) is one of those degrees. you make it virtually impossible to give every defendant a lawyer who has a week to devote to his case. The money to pay the lawyers does not exist, the lawyers themselves do not exist, etc.

    The "looks innocent" thing is huge. In NYC until De Blasio took office it was routine for cops to stop every young black man in the city once a year on the basis he was pretty sure said young black man had a gun in his pocket and was going to pull it out and start a murder spree. The warrantless search almost never turned up a weapon, does not seem to have ever prevented a murder spree, and was entirely justified by legal paperwork the cop filed when he was back at the station. It resulted in black men into weed losing most Federal financial aid (because they were convicted of drug crimes), including student loans, and thus being ineligible for most colleges. And yet when a Judge ruled that shit violated the Fourth Amendments fairly explicit right to be secure about one's person, she got reprimanded by the Appeals Court.

    The basic fact is the Founders took a system that was literally designed solely to protect the Nobility from commoners (in English Law, for example, "Peer" is the word for "nobleman", so a "Jury of your Peers" means a Jury made up of nobleman of your own rank) back in the UK, added some Amendments so their new King-stand-in couldn't use said system to prevent himself from being voted out of office, and called it a day. If you want it to be fairer to people who don't have $250k lawyer budgets you'll need to make good legal help cheap, which probably won't happen unless you change the job market so that people with $250k legal budgets are much rarer. The $250k will get them a very convincing actor with legal skills for the jury trial, and it will get them people with mediocre acting skills to go over the paperwork of the investigation in very close detail and determine what can be excluded, which Juror is most likely to vote innocent, etc. while still having $15k to pay for expert testimony.

    • by chihowa ( 366380 )

      A Juris Doctor, just like a Doctor of Medicine, is not a PhD level degree. They're professional degrees that most often don't even require a bachelor's degree to obtain. The PhD equivalent in the field of law is the Doctor of Judicial Science, which depends on a Master of Laws degree and a JD.

      A bit tangent to your point, but a useful thing to know when thinking about the practice of law.

  • In my rural county, some jurors must travel 100 miles each way to Superior Court. Jury quality suffers because so many potential jurors wash out on the economic burden questions, shrinking the pool to a small core of the nearby retired. Allowing jurors to remote in would be a real help. This doesn't have to mean attending from home; if control of the juror's environment becomes a problem, have remote jury rooms at branch libraries and police stations.

    • Not just jurors; for anything short of a felony, let the victim, er, I mean defendant, remote in too.

      A lot of people, especially poorer and with more time-demanding jobs (think retail, fast food, etc. compared to office jobs where in many it's no big deal if you're gone half a day if you make up the time) or less ability to travel (gas is cheaper now, but not free, or many may not have a car and in most of the US public transit is lousy) just can't fight even basic traffic tickets and have to pay the fine a

  • The problem is that federal prosecutors are appointed by the executive branch (DOJ, but the under the president) and are selected for, and instructed to pursue the political agenda of their superiors. Each prosecutor also has their own political agenda. The prosecutor that went after Swartz (Carmen Ortiez) has a reputation for this sort of thing. The best way to fix the system would be coming up with some non-partisan method to select/appoint/elect the prosecutors and perhaps even the attorney general.
    • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

      My proposal is rotating judgeship. Everyone who successfully passes the bar exam is put in a pool until they choose to retire (at which point they can no longer practice unless they rejoin the pool). Then the judge for a given case is chosen randomly out of everyone in the pool within a 25-mile radius, with an automatic redraw if the chosen judge is one of the attorneys involved in the case.

      For the DA, have five of them in any given district working as equals, and require them to vote on whether to prose

  • ...I'd like to see technology deliver a true veil of ignorance between juries and prosecutor/defendant/court.
    It would be the job of prosecutor, defendant (under the eye of the judge) to present a basic outline of events with neuter models in a visualized space. Witnesses could be questioned and cross examined in real time, but with the judge having a time delay circuit allowing the to excise any non relevant information to the case...defendant would not be a white man or black woman, just "defendant", etc.

    • How would you prosecute a rape case without the jury assuming the accused was male and the victim female?

      How would you prosecute a child abuse case without admitting that the victim is, indeed, a child?

      How would you prosecute an aggravated assault case without showing the disparity of force between assailant and victim (or, conversely, how would you defend a the case without allowing the accused to present disparity of force as justifying his defensive actions)?

  • Technology can only make you aware of the law, rules of evidence and relevant precedents and possibly coming up with some convincing illustrations / presentations / simulations to aid your case. It can't fix the letter of the law or how the legal process works, particular not where you're dealing with statutory damages, mandatory sentencing guidelines and so on, it can't help you get expert witnesses, it can't cross-examine witnesses, honestly the legal process is mostly a person-to-person thing. In the leg

  • by Cytotoxic ( 245301 ) on Saturday February 21, 2015 @02:27PM (#49101371)

    There is much to be done, but a great place to start would be moving to an independent system of true forensics science. In our current system, the forensics people work for the prosecution. They are not blinded as to what the police and prosecutor think about the crime or potential perpetrators. Much of what passes for "science" in the courtroom has absolutely no scientific basis, despite their "Frye Standard" of evaluating scientific evidence. There is very little research into the accuracy of forensics conclusions.

    Radley Balko over at the Washington Post just published a 4 part series on the flawed science of bite mark analysis. [] Our system is so increadibly screwed up that even getting caught on video tape framing an innocent man using junk "science" that has been discredited by actual scientific research isn't enough to get the courts and prosecutors to consider the possibility that they might have an innocent man in jail. The series is well worth the read, and if you really want to get your blood pressure up, follow the links to individual cases down a rathole of righteous indignation.

    • The main answer to this is multi-faceted:

      1. Removed absolute immunity from civil and criminal liability from all players in the criminal justice system. Yes, that means you can sue the judge who screwed up your trial. Suddenly a lot of people who are judges now will find another line of work as the liability isn't worth it for them.

      2. Hone qualified immunity back to such a tiny nub that nobody sees it as a reliable fallback. Right now, if a police officer arrests you for, say, photographing them (yes, th

      • One other thing that I forgot is the biggy - if people are found to be factually innocent then the DA's office needs to be forced to pay for their defense. Yes - specifically the DA's office. And it wouldn't matter what the defense cost. If that means the DA is bankrupted then so be it. The point, again, is to make it expensive to prosecute some poor guy because he can't afford a lawyer. If he can prove innocence then a good lawyer would take the case on so he could later just make the government pay f

        • I see you are a fellow traveler on the Don Quixote side of life. Nice too see you on the lunatic fringe.

          You'd think that "don't throw innocent people in jail if you can help it" would be a mainstream idea.... but, not so much. Pretty close to zero interest in such things from team red and team blue. Only true wackaloons are even aware of the problem to any great degree.

  • It's funny that the summary starts with "One of the cornerstones of any democracy is its judicial system". That's true of all forms of society/government; it is absolutely not limited to democracies. So why bring democracy into it - except that it's one of the holy words of our society, a word that stuns everyone into instant acquiescence and worship?

    One can make a strong case that justice is particularly hard to come by in a democracy, as opposed to a monarchy or a true aristocracy. The distinguishing feat

  • by AtlanticCarbon ( 760109 ) on Saturday February 21, 2015 @03:02PM (#49101521)

    ...find out what the law is on a given subject. The current case-law system worked for a limited network of courts and practitioners (in England) who could refer to older cases for jurisprudence. Now, you have to pay thousands of dollars to have access to digital/searchable caselaw in a sprawling network of courts across a continent. In a democracy people should know what the law says.

  • One of the big problems with the legal system is how inefficient and time consuming it is. We live in a world where just threatening legal action can put a big question mark over someone's financial future. To do anything, you need to pay for the services of expensive lawyers and paralegals. So this naturally puts the wealthy, big corporations and big government agencies at an advantage.

    You can see how inefficient the judicial system is just by looking at how much paper they produce. They literally have to

  • Do you really want more efficiency? Even the simplest technology adoption would help immensely help that group of self-serving luddites. How about using email to mail copies of documents in advance of actual signed copies? How about using electronic records for managing cases? How about sharing information between jurisdictions? How about better surveillance equipment so we can simply have better evidence? WHOA.. wait.. maybe not some of those.. Hm.. maybe this is a slippery slope and you should be

    • Surveillance can be a valid solution to some problems. Cop cameras are a good case - accusations of police abusing their position to intimidate or threaten people are commonplace, but often difficult to prove because the sector has a culture of protecting their own. Giving every police car and officer a camera could be a way to solve that one: Police are going to behave much better when they know they might face real consequences for their actions.

      It only works if you have means in place to ensure defense h

  • I'm in my tenth year of practice in California handling general civil litigation. I can try to share a few key points that won't get me in trouble with my peers or area judges.

    -- Every state should implement a PACER-like system where the public has remote access to all court records and can download all the PDFs they want for a small fee, 24/7. PACER/ECF is the Federal system for accessing and filing court documents, and it makes it really convenient when you can review an entire case file without physica

  • by felrom ( 2923513 ) on Saturday February 21, 2015 @03:23PM (#49101605)

    1. Too many laws make for too many criminals. Repeal a LOT of laws. The exponentially increasing number of malum prohimitum laws has been eroding personal liberty since the 1910s.

    2. Make congress do the legislating. No more, "as the secretary shall determine." That just means we have no law and we're ruled by unaccountable bureaucrats, and each president gets to appoint his cronies to exact his political agenda on his enemies. If congress isn't smart enough to write the law, then it shouldn't become a law.

    3. Loser pays, in both civil and criminal trials. Yeah, I can bring a lawsuit against the US government for violating my rights, but they get to use their unlimited wealth on an army of DOJ lawyers to stall in the courts until I'm bankrupt. The fact that rights are only restored when groups like the ACLU, EFF and NRA get involved against the government is proof enough of the problem.

    • I've seen many of those 'stupid laws still on the books'. (I see [] exists, amusing. "A woman isn’t allowed to cut her own hair without her husband’s permission.") Why do those even still exist?

      It seems like all laws need some time limit, if no one has been successfully tried for something illegal for X number of years the law becomes void.

      I'm not sure about your #3 of Loser pays. That may stop someone bringing a case against a GM or other mega corp if they spend millions

  • Go to, and allow people to suggest punishments. The most upvoted punishment after 1 day becomes the punishment.
  • by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Saturday February 21, 2015 @04:12PM (#49101847)

    The biggest problem with our judicial system is the cost. In any complex case the cost is out of reach for too many people. For example recently here in Oregon a soccer coach was charged with inappropriately touching a 12 year old girl on his team. After a year and a half the case was dismissed a week ago but he had run up legal bills of nearly $500,000. How many of us could afford something like that?

  • Frankly the judicial system is not completely designed to achieve justice or find truth. Often the system exists to either create business or to enforce popular prejudices. For example no judge is dumb enough to actually believe the cops snagging someone under the excuse of a broken tail light or a car seeming to sway a bit. Cops use false charges to stop drivers and seek out felonies and their promotions and job security are tied to these tactics. The average traffic stop is not in reality a tr
  • What would Constitutional Law be viewed like if it was handled by a Machine Learning program wraped in AIML? Would Citizens United still be?
  • The only thing which can improve the judicial system is making it as luddite as possible. US has a common law legal system. All common law systems have O(n!) complexity. Any attempts to fight the expanding complexity by hiring more lawyers are attempts at linear scaling (O(n)) solutions to O(n!) problems. Adding computers into the mix allows for exponential solutions O(n^K). Which creates the illusion of solving the problem because O(n^K) > O(n). But, for sufficiently large n and any fixed K, O(n^K
    • buh... slashdot didn't allow a single < go through. The "O(n^K) O(n!)" was meant to says "O(n^K) is less than O(n!)".
  • Look at Norway if you want to see a functioning system. It is not a technological problem it is a political, sociological, and phsychological problem. Have a look and read carefully this comment on the Guardian []

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.