In my second book, Tried and Convicted: How Police, Prosecutors, and Judges Destroy Our Constitutional Rights (Rowman & Littlefield), I discussed how the police indoctrinate kids at a young age through “Deputy Friendly.” The good deputy’s message is clear: the police are your friends and they’re here to help. Conversely, I lamented, early education excludes anything that runs contrary to that pro-government theme. If you doubt that, try to imagine anyone teaching young people about how the police are permitted to lie to us, how we have the right to tell them to “pound sand” when they want us to talk, and how we can demand the presence of an attorney to gum-up the government machinery. (Hard to visualize such an education, isn’t it?) But as successful as Deputy Friendly has been indoctrinating
youth, I think the judiciary has just topped him with the publication of Learning
about Judges: A Coloring Book.
That’s right: a coloring book for kids to learn about
judges and the court system. And what
does the coloring book teach? One of my
favorite pages states that “All types of people are judges. The only important thing is that they are
fair and honest.” Too bad the coloring
book fails to give a counterexample, such as the case of a former Illinois
judge who took bribes from defendants in exchange for lenient sentences, while at
the same time sentencing non-bribing defendants to harsher sentences (including
death) to maintain his tough-on-crime image.
Now that’s called a win-win-win, kids.
And it’s a great lesson in economics, politics, law, and literary flair — all
rolled into a single batch of chocolately cookie goodness. (“A case combining two men scheduled to die
at the hands of the State with the corrupt judge who sentenced them creates a
toxic mix[,]” which the kids can read about by clicking this link.)
Another page of the coloring book states that “The judge listens to everyone and decides how to solve the problem.” It then shows two happy litigants shaking hands in front of the smiling judge. Now this is just flat-out wrong. What are the little cherubs to think when they later appear in a courtroom for the first time and the judge, far from smiling, actually screams at them or their counsel? Worse yet, if one thing is as certain as death and taxes it’s that when the litigation finally ends many years and thousands of dollars later, at least one (and probably both) of the litigants will be upset, angry, outraged, or possibly even scarred for life.
I think a much better teaching method is to introduce the youngsters to Ambrose Bierce, an American icon and author of the Devil’s Dictionary. Mr. Bierce paints a different — and infinitely more realistic — picture of judges and the court system. And the kids only have to learn three simple definitions:
judge, n., A person who is always interfering in disputes in which he has no personal interest.
LITIGANT, n., A person about to give up his skin for the hope of retaining his bones.
And my personal favorite,
Litigation, n., A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.
I know that actual case law — even when it takes the form of gripping literature — and Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary are not as fun as coloring between the lines. But don’t we owe it to future generations to give them a more balanced perspective? C’mon, think of the children.