In my elementary school civics class, I was taught that the key to a democratic government was the rule of law; that everyone is equal under the law; that Lady Justice was blind to money, power and influence.
In other words, my teacher lied.
It wasn’t that she intended to. And, at the time, it may not have been a lie at all. What she taught was what the Founding Fathers intended. But the system has since been perverted. In far too many cases, the poor are rushed to “justice” through a forced plea bargain, or the court appoints an often inept attorney and they are swiftly convicted of any and all charges.
On the other hand, those with money can afford the very best counsel. They can delay trials for years. They can negotiate small fines to pay for their transgressions without admitting guilt. In the rare instances when they are convicted, they can file appeal after appeal. They can delay sentencing. And, if they are finally taken to prison, it is usually a minimum security “gentleman’s” prison that protects them from the general prison population.
The most obvious contrast between our two standards of “justice” involves non-violent drug users and small-time dealers versus the barons of Wall Street. As I’ve previously written, our prisons are overflowing with drug users and dealers serving draconian, sometimes life, sentences. In most cases, these people are products of impoverished families and communities. They are often people who never had a real opportunity for a good education or more productive lives.
In contrast stand the gamblers and gamers of Wall Street. Most grew up in wealthy families. They were sent to the best schools and universities. They have enjoyed lives of privilege based on using and taking other people’s money. They have learned to game the system. In the years leading up to 2008, they learned to steal without technically breaking any laws. They crashed our economy. They caused millions to lose their homes and their jobs. And, to my knowledge, not a single one has gone to prison. Not one has faced a trial. Not one has been charged with any crime!
Meanwhile, the Department of Injustice has worked overtime to convict others.
A case in point is Tim DeChristopher whose story is told in a documentary titled Bidder 70. In the waning days of the Bush administration, DeChristopher had the audacity to bid on oil and gas leases for thousands of acres of pristine lands in order to throw a wrench into an auction that was later determined to be an illegal attempt to reward Bush’s oily friends. Nevertheless, DeChristopher was charged with a federal crime. It appears that the Department of “Justice” wanted to make an example of him. The judge in the case refused to allow any testimony that might justify DeChristopher’s actions. He refused to allow testimony that others had bid on leases they couldn’t afford. He refused to allow testimony showing the importance of maintaining the beauty of the lands.
The judge basically ordered the jurors to convict DeChristopher and sentenced him to two years in prison. Those who arranged the auction which would have resulted in the destruction of some of the Southwest’s most beautiful public lands were not charged. The others who bid on leases but couldn’t pay for them were not charged. No one else was charged.
Certainly, that is just one example of a judge seeking injustice. There are many others. Five of them, who have decided to place the rights of corporations above citizens, are sitting on the highest court in the land.