Rather than focus on courts as places we go to resolve “cases”, National Forum On Judicial Accountability (NFOJA) hones in on a sentiment shared by noted scholar David Barnhizer and perhaps others:  Courts are where judges distribute power.

The New Zealand Herald includes an article today about a website addressing concerns quite different than those tackled by National Forum On Judicial Accountability (NFOJA) with regard to America.  But the article shares sentiments, terribly reminiscent of NFOJA’s overriding aim.

Rather than focus on courts as places we go to resolve “cases”, NFOJA hones in on a sentiment shared by noted scholar David Barnhizer and perhaps others:  Courts are where judges distribute power.

Upon viewing America’s court system as primarily a “power distributing center”, The New Zealand Herald is apt to catch your eye with its headline “Victims' website keeps eye on judges' rulings”.  A spokesperson for the website explains:

The public have (sic) been accused of being uneducated when it comes to the legal system and judiciary, and essentially told to butt out. But actually, people are genuinely interested in what's going on and we just want the site to educate people.
NFOJA co-sponsored a program series spanning 2011 to 2012, “The Matthew Fogg Symposia On The Vitality Of Stare Decisis In America”.  A featured panelist, Professor Terri R. Day, reports that “(n)othing is more dangerous to an independent judiciary than limiting information and silencing disfavored voices.”  Yet New Zealand’s Justice Minister Judith Collins contends that ‘websites like (the referenced) Judging the Judges are unfair to individual judges and often based on ignorance’.

The national grassroots legal reform community is still warming up to the opportunity that retired Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Matthew Fogg provided through his symposia on stare decisis a/k/a the doctrine of precedent.  Reportedly “(t)here has never been a more inclusive, authoritative, and important analysis of American courts than (the) program series (provided).”

Many, perhaps most grassroots legal reform advocates do not think America’s legal system needs analysis beyond accepting their determination that the whole thing is corrupt.  Should they embrace the Fogg symposia as an opportunity to both teach and learn, all of America would move closer to a “truth” that differs from what most law professors and grassroots legal reform advocates seem to think now:  The pivotal problem with America’s court system is that it issues innumerable decisions with tremendous public policy implications without appropriate public scrutiny.  

The relative anonymity/covertness of America’s judiciary affords it a prerogative uncomfortably paralleling an oligarchy at times.  During the course of Fogg’s debut symposium on stare decisis, the courts were deemed obscure based on inadequate major media coverage of their activities; the misunderstandings and misperceptions of their proper function that abound; the disregard of and disinterest in their operations among many Americans; and the nature as well as implications of those activities that are simply unknown by or concealed from most Americans.  

According to Professor Day, “(t)here is no debate that information and education, or the lack thereof, are both the cause and the solution” of declining confidence in American courts.  In addition to public trust, sufficient transparency, awareness, and education with regard to America’s judiciary should help preserve the country’s execution of democracy and functioning as a republic through three (3) branches of government; its corresponding separation of powers; and its commitment to the rule of law.  

America’s judiciary has become totally unpredictable for and notably unfair to average Americans.  NFOJA represents a subset of certain legal system users – litigants; plaintiffs and defendants; complainants and respondents.  The tie binding us is what we see as a lack of predictability and efficiency in our encounters with America’s legal system when stability, predictability, efficiency, and welfare-enhancement should be the byproduct of stare decisis; appropriate adherence to precedent.  

Kudos for our counterparts in New Zealand.  Three cheers for “Judging the Judges”.  

‘Open justice allows for members of the public to see judges' decisions, allows them to agree and/or debate - this is what judgethejudges.co.nz is all about.’    


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