Sunday, July 24, 2005

Removing the Bias Towards Government

Suppose you decide to sue Big Corporation, Inc. Who should decide the outcome of the suit? High ranking employees of Big Corporation, Inc., or a jury of your peers?

This is one of the inherent problems in any suit against the government. Go to court and who decides the case? A judge -- employed by the institution against which you have filed suit. Naturally, one would expect that judges would be biased in favor of their employer -- the government whom you are suing, rather than you -- an individual with whom they have never had contact and likely will never have any contact with again. You may have a legitimate case; you may have proof that a mistake made by government officials resulted in direct monetary damages. But if we look at case after case, it seems as though the bias is always in favor of government, and rarely are government officials held liable for their actions, even when their errors results in measurable losses.

Here's the dilemma:

Lifetime appointments for Supreme Court Justices may mitigate this tendency to some extent. While they are employed by the government, they do not face the threat of being fired and should generally be able to make decisions free from external influences or politics. If they rule in favor of citizen # 350,426 rather than in favor of the government, they won't be handed pink slips the next day.

But at the same time, they do not worry about the same external influences which a jury of your peers might. The consequences of their rulings in all likelihood will never affect them. So if the ruling of the court is in favor of the government, and against citizen # 350,426 of 250 million, what difference does it make to them if he had a decent case? Will they lose sleep at night thinking they may have made an unfair ruling, but knowing that their own jobs are secure for the rest of their lives? Probably not.

How do we remove this bias towards government?

Here are some ideas, albeit none are perfect:
  • Suits against the government should be decided by an impartial jury -- not by judges in a State or U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Supreme Court Justices should be appointed and should be free from the threat of being 'fired' -- however, they should not be appointed for life. Instead, they should be appointed for staggered ten year terms, so that no one president is able to make multiple Supreme Court appointments. The ten year term aids in providing stability of rulings, and the staggered terms help in preventing perpetually fixed rulings or long term biases. Additionally, they will have the security of making just rulings without any repercussions resulting from the popularity or lack of popularity of their rulings for those ten years, but should their rulings have adverse effects on the rights of the people, they will have to face those effects as a regular citizen after they leave the Court and are employed elsewhere.

What else could we do to remove this bias towards government and shift it towards a dedication to individual rights?

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