JUSTICE DENIED: The Case for Reform of the Courts by

JUSTICE DENIED: The Case for Reform of the Courts

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Downie, who is city editor for the Washington Post, has done some indignant scandal-mongering on the dilapidated judiciary. Among the indictments: 'plea bargaining' (nine out of ten criminal cases are settled by haggling between prosecutor and defense counsel); 'the revolving door system' which includes traffic court, 'drunk court' and small claims (""It's a miracle they don't burn down the courthouse,"" said one Washington, D.C., judge); and the archaic and routinized legal harassment of gamblers, prostitutes, junkies, etc. The point of this dismal story is that almost everyone gets screwed -- the middle class on divorce, personal injury claims and probate; the poor always as a matter of course (""Our jails are our nation's punitive poor houses""). Downie pleads for computerized data-processing and modern management techniques in scheduling of trials, maintaining court records and providing information banks. Not as sanguine as Dorsen (The Rights of Americans, 1970), he acknowledges the legal breakthroughs of OEO zealots but warns that mere 'tinkering' with outmoded procedures and overlapping jurisdictions won't suffice. He is even dubious whether Chief Justice Warren Burger's announced intent to campaign personally for court reform can penetrate the yawning public apathy. It's meant to jolt and alarm as well as inform and it succeeds. No trial. No jury of peers. A 'long' case is anything over ten minutes. ""We are running a machine. . . . We have to grind them out fast.

Pub Date: June 7th, 1971
Publisher: Praeger