Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Justice Ought Not To Be Based On Tight Money." I Disagree

Like everywhere, Florida is going through a crisis in court funding. It's everywhere. The judiciary, prosecutors, public defenders, law enforcement.

It's terrible and great at the same time.

When there's tons of money, people come up with too many ideas. Stupid ideas, like more minimum mandatories, more prosecutions of crimes that no one really cares about, more prisons to house more drug offenders that need help we "can't afford."

When there's less money, we think of ways to "cut," and "streamline." We consider not prosecuting certain crimes, not arresting every single person who commits a "nuisance" crime, not sitting behind trees and stopping cars and conducting "consensual" searches.

When money's tight we hear things like:

“We are being driven by monetary considerations in everything we do and I do not like it one bit.” Eighth Circuit State Attorney Bill Cervone.

"Justice ought not to be based on tight money." Second Circuit State Attorney Willie Meggs

Now my disagreement with these two quotes above is obviously due to my "desire to see the system collapse and criminal defendants run rampant in the streets."

Wrong. I don't want the system to collapse, just shrink.

I don't want the lack of money to cause cases against violent criminals to collapse, and I don't want the fairness of the system to be compromised due to a lack of money. Particularly, I want good prosecutors and good public defenders to remain in their offices and be paid a fair wage.

But the criminal justice system has become the dumping ground for politicians looking to remain in office regardless of their lack of ability to cure other social problems like education and health care.

Pass a minimum mandatory sentence, build another prison, take away another defense, revise the evidence code to make cases more geared towards the prosecution.

That all takes money. Money in the criminal justice system leads to more ideas, mostly bad.

When there's no money, you hear things like this from 18th Circuit Chief Judge Clayton Simmons:

"Death is too costly." “One thing I would recommend is that we would get rid of the death penalty. It’s so darn expensive from the legal side to process a case and go through all pretrial and post-trial hearings you have to have.”

So I disagree, Justice ought to be based on tight money.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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