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How Important People Think

There aren’t nearly enough Arizona legal blogs, which is the primary reason why I keep the Arizona Appellate Blog in my feed. The constant use of “we” and “our” in posts that are either the product of a depressingly underwhelming group effort or the bizarrely haughty statements of an individual rub me the wrong way. So do somewhat regular comments that seem to indicate its author or authors believe they’re writing to a captivated audience awaiting each post with baited breath. If they are, I can’t imagine who comprises their audience.

Regardless, it’s not a worthless blog, as it at least has original content and isn’t just blatantly pimping someone’s services. It’s a sad state of affairs where lawyers writing because they have something to say and not only something to sell automatically distinguishes a blog from the pack. However, that’s why I keep reading it. My opinion of the blog may be changing for the worse, though, after the most recent post about a largely uninteresting civil opinion started with this:

Not many civil cases lately. This delay is chance but the numbers will decrease. The shriveling of the civil system continues, as litigants abandon and are abandoned by the courts. One wonders whether, in a generation or two, even the ambulance-chasers will find room in a courthouse full of folks who think that the noblest expression of a legal system constructed by the finest minds over 1000 years is to decide whether today’s burglar gets two years or seven and where he should see his kids next Tuesday. They will think the legal disputes of law-abiding non-troublemakers a distracting nuisance but at least they will know how to try cases. (And they may last longer than the trial judges; if the transmogrification into bureaucratic social-worker continues, society will eventually ask why such people need be or ought to be lawyers.)

To be quite honest, I’m not totally sure what they’re trying to say, but what’s obvious is the sentiment that Arizona’s appellate court is wasting it’s time addressing trifling matters, like a half decade out of the lives of ordinary citizens charged with crimes, when it should be dealing with far more important matters, like whether a court should adopt Restatement Third § 39 or Restatement Second § 321 in a case about torts.

If I had to guess, I’d say based on that post alone that the blog is written by a bunch of civil defense lawyers for the powerful. The use of the term “ambulance-chasers” seems like a dead giveaway. The mindset I’d expect from that group also seems consistent to me with the idea that we should care more about civil lawyers and their clients’ payouts than we should about someone getting two years versus seven. Someone who apparently values money over the freedom of the unlucky wouldn’t care much about that sort of thing. They also wouldn’t think big important appeals courts should worry about when poor little children get to see their parents when they could be dividing up rich people’s money. An enlightened bunch writing the blog, for sure.

At its core, what really bugs me is the implication that civil parties are somehow better than criminal defendants. Plus, are the blog’s authors so obtuse that they really think our criminal justice system is only filled with law-breakers and troublemakers? Do they not see that it’s maybe, just maybe, possible that the reason why the courts don’t have much time for anything other than criminal cases is because of overcharging? And that perhaps the people whose cases they seem to view as a nuisance aren’t part of some ever-growing army of ne’er-do-wells they inexplicably believe are clogging our courts, but rather victims of the irresponsible people who are actually responsible for the glut of criminal filings?

The comment about judges (and everyone in the system, really, to be accurate) becoming bureaucratic social workers is spot on, at least. In fact, lower court judges don’t have to be lawyers already. Many other judges across the state at all levels in criminal matters have seemingly morphed into conviction-insurers who don’t really have to be lawyers too. The prosecutors have no idea what the law is for the most part, and when smart defense attorneys make good arguments, those judges routinely do the exact opposite of what they should only to be upheld by clever reviewing judges adjusting the law and precedent to toss more and more people in prison. Our system would work about as well with an conviction-guaranteeing algorithm instead of human beings at all. Of course, then the Arizona Appellate Blog would just complain that courts are devoting all the venerable presiding computer’s memory to all those yucky and undeserving accused criminals.

Hopefully, the folks at the Arizona Appellate Blog were just having a bad day and feel differently now that they’ve had a chance to cool down. If not, it’s more than a little embarrassing that fellow members of the bar can’t seem to grasp why criminal cases deserve preferential treatment. The importance of fundamental rights and the actual freedom of human beings being attacked by the government as compared to the complaints of people wealthy enough to afford an appeal about money should be quite obvious.

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