The legal profession is littered with lawyers and judges that are unprepared to do their jobs. Some of us are incapable of understanding even the simplest legal doctrines. Yet others among us have the ability, but simply are not interested in gaining a deep, working knowledge of our craft. And many of us are just lazy beyond belief. All of this manifests itself in inefficiencies and astronomical costs – costs that are borne by the litigants and the taxpaying public.
I recently wrote about one such case in
where the judge went to great lengths to avoid giving the defendant his trial. In the process, he completely botched the law,
and, twenty-three court hearings and an appeal later, the case was still
unresolved. (Update: after a few more
hearings – about thirty in total – the prosecutor finally dismissed the
case.) More recently, defense lawyers in
a Racine case had to spend an astronomical amount of time researching,
briefing, litigating, and appealing a simple legal issue, just because the
prosecutor and the judge didn’t understand (or refused to accept) the law.
And these examples are far from anomalous; rather, they are common occurrences. But where does this incompetence, laziness, disinterest, and cavalier disregard for the law come from? I’ve given it a great deal of thought, and I think we can blame the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates.