Equal justice under the law. That’s the promise American courts make to plaintiffs and defendants alike. But year after year of budget austerity has forced California’s court system to slash its services so deeply that it has made a mockery of that sacred pledge.

Maura Dolan reports that “recession-driven cutbacks in California’s huge court system have produced long lines and short tempers at courthouses throughout the state. Civil cases are facing growing delays in getting to trial, and court closures have forced residents in some counties to drive several hours for an appearance.”

Backups in the courts are affecting Californians’ love lives: “Clerks in Contra Costa County said they have received complaints from people who divorced and wanted to remarry but couldn’t because clerks had not yet processed the paperwork for judges’ signatures.”

Every cloud has a silver lining. Because so many courthouses have closed, some Californians are automatically getting exempted from jury duty: “In San Bernardino County, the Superior Court has stopped summoning jurors from Needles, making the guarantee of a jury of one’s peers elusive. Because of court closures in the High Desert, a trip to court from Needles can take some residents 3-1/2 hours.”

But it’s still a damned dark cloud.

“We are really on the borderline of a constitutional crisis,” Marsha Slough, San Bernardino County’s presiding judge says. “We have victims who want to give up because they don’t want to testify in criminal trials because of the driving distances and costs.”

Whether you’re fighting a traffic ticket, fending off a neighbor over a property dispute or waiting for a divorce, everyone winds up in court sooner rather than later. And contrary to what conservatives keep saying, starving government institutions of cash doesn’t make them leaner and meaner — it makes them broken and, well, mean, but not in a good way (viz, court employees report that fistfights among frustrated citizens waiting in long lines are a common occurrence…and the extra assaults just cause even more backups in the courts!).

We need a better way. Not a bigger budget — that would solve the problem and reduce unemployment.

No, what we need is to automate the court system! There are, after all, algorithm-based lie detectors that determine whether you’re telling the truth by analyzing a scan of your face. Since California’s courts handle millions of cases each year, a huge database of precedents can be uploaded and used as a basis to help determine the outcome of new and future matters. And we already know from last year’s trouble-free launch of Obamacare that the Internet is the perfect tool for replacing old-fashioned human-based bureaucracies.

What could go wrong?

2 thoughts on “LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: CaliCourts.com

  1. > Equal justice under the law.

    Wait … what? I thought the Bush admin did away with that amusing anachronism.

    Contrary to popular belief, the biggest clog isn’t due to humans suing over trivialities – it’s corporations. They’ll file suit not expecting to win, but rather simply to slow down the competition. The fix for that is to throw inter-corporate lawsuits out entirely. The constitution protects citizens, not corporations. They got a beef with each other, fine, let ’em figure out a way to resolve differences that doesn’t depend on taxpayer financing.

    The second fix is to enforce the consumer protection laws already on the books. A corporation will turn what should be a simple product liability claim into a huge circus, all at taxpayer expense. Treat violations as criminal – not civil – matters. Get rid of our current interpretation of “Limited Liability.” Today, if a corporation kills someone, nobody goes to jail. It’s the corporation who killed those victims, not a human. Hang a few of those bastards and there will soon be fewer product liability claims in the first place. Corporations today ignore the Fair Credit Billing Act with impunity. The worst that can happen is they lose fifty bucks. So what? It costs them more than fifty bucks to respond to a complaint, and it costs a human more than fifty bucks to get them to pay up. Increase that fine to fifty thousand, and bill the damned corp for the paperwork necessary to collect it. Problem solved!

    Lastly, get all the victimless crimes off the books. Half the clogs in the legal system are due to prosecuting non-violent drug users. We then sentence them using draconian minimum sentencing guidelines, filling up our prisons and costing us bazillions of dollars. We pay cops to pay prostitutes for sex before busting them – your tax dollars at work.

    Fewer trials + fewer prisons + fewer cops = less expensive legal system = more effective legal system for those who do harm others.

    • “Wait … what? I thought the Bush admin did away with that amusing anachronism.”

      That’s right. Bush killed it then Obama drove a stake through its heart and buried it.