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Moral Failures of the Legal System

NCJ Number
Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic Volume: 44 Issue: 5 Dated: (September 1980) Pages: 457-481
L G Forer
Date Published
25 pages
Moral failures of the legal system can be addressed by redefining the lawyer's role, increasing access to the courts, providing equal protection for the powerless and compensatory laws for the vulnerable, remedying sentencing disparity, and providing redress for crime victims.
There is a distinct lack of commitment by attorneys to representing clients who need legal services and to contributing to the fair, competent, and responsible administration of justice. Too many persons become lawyers for basically selfish reasons that inhibit their serving the public good. Further, although courts are a public institution paid for by all the taxpayers, they are not equally available to all. The power and protections of the court are denied those citizens who have neither the money nor the power to make the legal system respond to their needs. As an extension of this moral failure, the legal system fails to give equal protection to children, the mentally-ill, the elderly, prisoners, and other disadvantaged persons. Also, laws should provide compensation for persons notably vulnerable to their abusers because of physical weakness, being unarmed while the offender is armed, being under the legal control of the abuser, and being mentally disadvantaged. Sentencing does not reflect the consequences of various offenses and is unequally applied according to the socioeconomic status of the offender. Finally, inadequate attention is given to crime victims, most of whom are poor and suffer serious injury, permanent disability, and monetary losses. Few can afford necessary medical treatment and loss of wages. Adequate victim compensation and reparation are imperative in any system of justice. Ten references and a favorable commentary on the essay are provided.