Brown & Little, P.L.C. » Courts » Veterans Court

Veterans Court

In a lot of ways, I really like the idea of a special court for veterans. Treating any group or any individual in accordance with the fundamental concept that some sense of dignity and worth should be afforded to criminal defendants is a great idea in my book, even if most other defendants don’t have the same luxury. I’m not willing to slam a program that does something a little closer to right just because the rest of the system treats people totally wrong.

On the other hand, it’s tough to stomach a system that superficially kowtows to people whose lives have been directly ruined by the government, whether voluntary or not on their part, while destroying the lives of those whose lives have been less overtly ruined by the government or by different things that are also plainly not their fault. Until we have meaningful mentally ill court and disadvantaged children of terrible parents court, which would pretty much encompass every other person in the criminal justice system, we’re stuck with the best thing we have. That would be veterans court.

I’ve learned a couple of basic principles about it dealing with the Phoenix Municipal Court’s version. Here they are:

1 – Everyone assumes you’re guilty
2 – Everyone is really nice to you
3 – Their proposed resolution screws you a little

It’s a huge step in the right direction. Here’s the normal procedure in Phoenix Municipal Court:

1 – Everyone assumes you’re guilty
2 – Everyone is really mean to you
3 – Their proposed resolution screws you a lot

You might think that calling it a huge step is a bit of hyperbole on my part, but I don’t think so. When they’re ruining whatever is left of another human being’s life, a tiny bit of kindness goes an awfully long way. So does the effect of a decent plea versus a terrible plea.

If we treat people like human beings, they’re more likely to act like human beings. If we treat them in ways that don’t make having a normal life more difficult, they’re more likely to have a normal life. If you commit a crime because your life sucks and the system responds by making your life suck more, you’re pretty much guaranteed to commit another crime.

Fines and jail and convictions create different classes of citizens. If you long for the days of segregation and slavery, then you’re probably happy with what we’ve got. If you don’t, then maybe you should support measures that make every court a little more like veterans court. They just need to work on the first and third things a little more, even in veterans court.

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2 Responses to "Veterans Court"

  1. … and disadvantaged children of terrible parents court, which would pretty much encompass every other person in the criminal justice system, …

    A conservative estimate, I’d say.

    I can’t, by the way, find the comparison in the previous comment especially instructive to any inherent unfairness. In the case of criminal defendants being given sentences that have very little chance of rehabilitation and that tend to embitter them and place obstacles against them that make them likely to repeat their old ways, something like a veterans’ court removes at least some of them from those onerous circumstances: it is conferring upon some a good thing that should be had by all. (This I take to be the thrust of the article here.) In the case of cops being able to get away with killing people in ways that ordinary citizens cannot, however, that is conferring an evil for some (the cops) that should not be granted to anyone. I can sympathize with discomfort anyone may feel with putting some citizens above others (and indeed much of our culture does lionize law enforcement to such an extent as to be blinded to its wrongdoings), but that example is a poor way of making the point, and in any case I agree with Mr. Brown that giving a benefit all should have to some is at least a start and better than nothing: I see no justice in insisting that every criminal defendant suffer until the solution can be given to all at once.

  2. Andrew (the other one) says:

    I’m not willing to slam a program that does something a little closer to right just because the rest of the system treats people totally wrong.

    I am. Giving an already politically-favored class another benefit isn’t a step in the right direction–it’s political patronage. It’s like the police being given the ability to shoot people to death in circumstances that would land any other person in jail (compare Kevin Dunn to the NC cop who shot the 70-year-old to death). It would be great if that sort of latitude were given to everyone, but that’s not how it works.

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