Equal Justice for All
According to Tom Tyler (2006), Americans are typically law-abiding people. Legal authorities know that the key to their effectiveness is their ability to make laws and decisions that will be followed by the public. The specificity of American civil society is based on freedom, defined on role of the judiciary in all fields of public relations with the state, and relations of citizens between each other. People obey the law because of different reasons: legal sanctions, social sanctions, legitimacy of law (respect for law), and morality of law (law is morally right), taken for habit. People always act in order to maximize their material wealth. If their behavior is rewarded, they will do it more. If the behavior is punished, they will do it less. According to Tom Tyler (2006), a substantial majority (70-90%) of adults believe that laws should be obeyed regardless of personal preferences.
According to Deterrence Theory, there are two reasons why people obey the law: specific and general. Specific deterrence refers to the punishment of a person. General deterrence refers to the effect on a general public, which may be afraid of being punished. Tom Tyler (2006) stated that people obey the law not because of sanctions but because they agree with the morals underlying the law, and because they believe that it is important to obey the law.
The U.S. has the largest number of judges and court attorneys. There is a developed complex judicial system with a high level of democratic procedural safeguards. The country is sometimes identified as a state of judges. It is marking not only the sovereignty of American vessels, but also public confidence in these authorities. Activities of the court are based on the principles, enshrined in the constitution. Some of them are generic, and others are distributed mainly in the criminal process, where the protection of individual rights has particular importance.
No public body, officer or other person will not specify to the court what it should decide in a particular case. The judge decides the case basing on the law and personal beliefs. Work of judges includes conflict resolution, social control, law making, and the interpretation of laws as applied to particular situations. Precedent and law still leave much room for judicial discretion, which means that judges have power.
The courts are free to access. One cannot be refused in accepting the case for reasons of absence or obscurity of the law. The court shall receive and consider the lawsuit. Litigation is processing in a language understood by the parties or with providing them an interpreter at public expense. The law provides publicity, and open public trial. State has responsibility for the miscarriage of justice. The state reimburses for person losses caused by wrong judgment.
The Constitution establishes some specific principles in the field of criminal process – guarantees of justice. These include: the right of the accused to trial by jury in order to decide the question of his guilt or innocence, the right to be assisted by lawyer from the moment of arrest or detention; defendant is presumed innocent until his guilt is proved and established; no person shall be convicted again for the same crime; it is not allowed the use of evidence obtained in violation of the law.
Requirements to judge are high due to their authority, including the decision of the fate of people. The judge must meet professional requirements (law degree and usually some experience in other legal positions), must have high moral character (not only criminal record, but spotless reputation), and some experience (usually the law provides increased age to engage the post of judge).
Courts are formed in different ways. In many U.S. states judges are elected by the citizens. The U.S. Supreme Court judges are appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate. The most important point of the status of judges is the principle of immutability. It means that judges may not be removed from office prematurely, before the statutory retirement age, unless they have committed a crime or behaved unworthily, cannot go to retire on their own. Immutability also means that changing the party in power does not affect the position of judges.
Judges are independent and subject only to the law. Generally, judges do not belong to political parties and do not participate in political actions, strikes. Judges apply the principle of incompatibility of positions: they cannot engage in any other paid work, commercial and industrial activities. Family ties are excluded in judicial institutions.
Juries are citizen adjudicators. They are neutral, drawn from community. The jury is a form of government, directed by citizens through their participation in the administration of justice. Jurors are empowered to make their own decisions without professional judge (judges) that protects people from arbitrary of state. According to Austin Sarat (2004), “a judge has experience on the bench and training in the law. Critics of the jury often focus on the incompetence of people chosen as jurors”.
Lawyers mediate, educate, and persuade more than they advocate. They are not always guided by the law. Lawyers are influenced by their own values and self-interest. Lawyers can act as gatekeepers to the legal system. Divorce lawyers sometimes discourage clients from pursuing litigation. According to John Heinz and Edward Laumann (1994), legal profession is stratified by the type of clients served: fields serving big business tended to be at the top of the prestige scale, and fields serving individuals and small businesses tended to be at the bottom of the prestige scale.
The main reasons for gender and race stratification are: discrimination, structural factors, cultural factors (i.e. gender role stereotypes). Therefore, legal professions are stratified on the basis of gender, minority status and type of the client they serve. American justice system is based on several paradoxes. 200 years ago, the United States became the first country which adopted the Bill of Rights. From the very beginning the U.S. political system has developed on the basis of the principle of equality of justice to all. Accordingly, this system was initially looking for ways not to punish offenders, but to rehabilitate them. However, these noble ideals have been forgotten for a long time.
Very often, American justice uses double standards instead of establishing justice. Illegal immigrants, convicted of a crime, receive a more severe punishment than the American citizens, who have committed the same crime. The same applies to African Americans, whose population in USA is not more than 13%. However, for example, they are arrested 3 times more often for possession of marijuana than white residents of America. Thus, African Americans make up 55% of the total prison population and 74% for offenses related to marijuana possession.
In conclusion, the United States refused to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits the condemnation of children to life imprisonment. As a result, there are more than 2 thousand 400 prisoners in American prisons, who have committed crimes being under-age, and have been sentenced to life imprisonment.
The death penalty is the most heavily criticized point by the international community. Thus, in 2010, 54 people were executed in United States. However, previous studies suggest that the level of legal error is very high.
Therefore, it can be said that the American system of justice is an integral part of the capitalist system, where the basic rules are the margins and profits.