Project #83195 - Criminal justice Discussion

Answer the question then reply to the students response.

 

1.An activist judge is one who believes that concepts such as due process and liberty are always evolving. Activists believe that the founding fathers of our country did not mean for the rights referenced in the Constitution to remain static. Given this belief, activist judges tend to allow their personal views about public policy, among other factors, to guide their decisions. Activist judges realize that their interpretation of various laws will influence the manner in which laws are enforced. They believe this is an appropriate role for a judge to play.

constructionist judge would argue that legislators should make law, not judges. Constructionists tend to take a much more literal (i.e., "black and white") and conservative approach when interpreting the Constitution and laws. Constructionist judges believe that all judges should avoid drawing inferences from a statute and focus only on the text itself.

Discuss some of the potential ethical concerns that relate to these two very different interpretations of the appropriate role of a judge.

 

Students Response: 

Discuss some of the potential ethical concerns that relate to these two very different interpretations of the appropriate role of a judge.

When it comes to judicial activism, I feel that there are some positive effects which are largely overshadowed by the negative. I do agree with the belief that law should evolve, as we as a society are also constantly evolving. In a oversimplified example, take laws from the "olden" days; Baltimore City had a law prohibiting cursing within the city limits. I think more than a few of us would be in violation of that law today. In a neighboring city, a law prohibited profane language in children's parks; today, I dread taking my children to a park due to all the cussing...coming from the children themselves. With people and society changing, it makes no sense for laws to remain static. However, there is a real unsettling feeling in allowing judges to tweak the law at their personal discretion. I do not automatically associate judge with moral or justice. Judges can be just as twisted, crooked, and dirty as the criminals they're tasked to preside over. There has been more than one judge in the news for making questionable or outright offensive comments related to race. According to Hellenicfed.org (2015), one Philly judge had this to say about a Greek father appearing in his court for neglecting to pay child support:

"Are you of Greek background sir?”

“Right, the Greeks never pay taxes,” (Amid attorney objections)

“That’s why their country is in bankruptcy.”

“So can I take judicial note of the fact that the Greeks are in bankruptcy as a nation and one of the reasons, the principal reason is because none of them ever pay taxes?”

As the attorney objects to the judge's "lumping" of his client in with the entire country of Greece, the judge states: “Well, these are simply statements of fact, right?”

This kind of prejudiced behavior, I personally don't see this as racist as much as prejudiced, has no place in the courts and certainly not behavior becoming of a judge in charge of that court. Another ethical consideration of judicial activism is that the judicial branch of our government is the least democratic; federal judges are not elected by the people and they serve for life. While the Constitution of the U.S. has plenty to say about all the other aspects of our government, it has very little to say about these appointments. Lastly, as a society, we tend to fuel the fires of judicial activism when we praise rulings we approve of. When a judge deviates on a standard law and meets with our approval, he or she is encouraged to continue doing so in future cases. But, not every ruling will be met with approval. It is a slippery slope. 

 

2. You are a member of a jury. The jury is hearing a child molestation case in which the defendant is accused of a series of molestations in his neighborhood. In an attempt to ensure the jury is not unduly influenced, the judge instructs the jury and all officers of the court (any person who has an obligation to promote justice and effective operation of the judicial system, including judges, the attorneys who appear in court, bailiffs, clerks and other personnel) not to discuss the case with anyone outside the courtroom - especially anyone involved in the case. After the fourth day of trial, you happen to ride on a very full elevator with the prosecutor. You are standing directly behind the prosecutor. The elevator is very crowded, and it is fairly obvious that the prosecutor has not noted your presence, and/or he does not recognize you as a member of the jury. You happen to overhear the prosecutor whispering to his lead assistant that the defendant has a previous arrest for child molestation, but the he is not allowed to mention this fact in court because the judge believes the information would unduly prejudice the jury. You were already fairly sure the defendant was guilty, but now you definitely believe he is guilty. What would you do?

 

Students Response:

I would immediately report what happened in the elevator to the bailiff. First of all, the judge instructed all parties involved in this case not to discuss the case outside the courtroom-- to prevent the incident like this. We never know who is around us, so if we were told not to talk about something, don’t do it! “If you receive any information about this case from any source outside of the trial, even unintentionally, do not share that information with any other juror. If you do receive such information, or if anyone tries to influence you or any juror, you must immediately tell the bailiff.” (Criminal, n.d.) It is not fair to me nor to the defendant that I have an extra information that affects my judgement for the trial.

 

Now I know the extra information about the defendant, I feel like I should not be involved in this case. I cannot say that the information I accidentally found out would not influence the way I see the case at this point.

 

After I report this incident to the bailiff, eventually the judge will be notified. When the judge reviews what happened, he/she might “declare a mistrial and grant the defendant a new trial (What happens, n.d.). But in order to do that, I need to convince the judge that I have been illegally influenced by outside information due to a simple mistake of the prosecutor (Kelly, n.d.).

 

The following quote summarizes the explanation well; “[T]he only evidence of juror impropriety that a court will usually consider is an external communication or influence; anything that is internal to the jury, including discussions and thought processes, is generally off-limits. For example, Juror Jane is eligible to testify that someone outside of court told her that the defendant had a violent history; the out-of-court statement is an external influence. However, evidence of what effect this statement had on her vote would not be admissible; her thought process in this regard is internal to the jury. If a court hears evidence of an improper influence on a juror, it will try to determine whether that influence was likely to actually affect the juror’s verdict. Not every instance of an improper influence or jury-tampering leads to a new trial. So, for example, if a juror acknowledges that someone simply told her that the defendant looked guilty, the court probably won’t overturn the verdict. But evidence that a juror received cash payments in exchange for finding the defendant guilty will likely spur the court into action.”

 

 

After I report the incident to the bailiff, I will wait for further instruction from the judge. I hope the prosecutor that didn’t obey the judge’s instruction gets some kind of penalty for his/her action as well.

Subject English
Due By (Pacific Time) 09/24/2015 12:00 am
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