Should judicial institutions have the ability to create artificial markets?   no comments

Answer by Tim Dees:

I’m responding to your question after having read several of the answers and your revised/added comments.

With regard to the case, I suspect there is some information you’re either not getting or of which you have been misinformed. If your father is truly in the 99th percentile of wage-earners, I would think he would be able to hire a lawyer with more horsepower than the one you described. Someone charged with misdemeanor assault & battery with no previous criminal record should have been able to get a much better deal than your father got. Further, testimony from the victim at trial would have exonerated your father. The attorney would have known this. The behavior you’re describing is more typical of an overloaded public defender who is simply looking to clear his caseload as quickly as possible. Those aspects alone make the story not ring true.

In most states (I don’t know specifically how New York’s statute is worded), an officer with probable cause to believe an act of domestic violence has occurred is obligated to make an arrest, if possible.There are exceptions, but they require doing copious explanatory paperwork, and even then the officer will be closely scrutinized to ensure he didn’t shine on the case for personal reasons (being starstruck by celebrity, personal friend, law enforcement affiliation, etc.). Few cops are going to risk that. They’ll make the arrest and let the courts sort it out.

With regard to the anger management courses and other post-sentencing education and counseling programs, yes, there is quite an industry of these, and it’s quite profitable. I worked for a DUI school for over a year, being paid $25 an hour to teach the same three three-hour blocks over and over again to people convicted of DUI. The “students” were required to take the course, and paid $300 each for the privilege. Do the math, and you can see the school turned a good profit, even if there was only one person in each class (which was seldom the case).

There are lots of these schools and programs out there, and they’re all expensive. The “students” have no choice but to pay the fees, and the schools track one another to make sure the fees are consistent. Scheduling and location usually decide which program the “student” will enroll in, when they are given a choice.

Most courts will allow the defendant to choose from a list of providers when more than one is available. In a place the size of NYC, I’d expect the list to be lengthy. When I was a court officer, we let the defendants choose from a list of approved providers, and the order of the list was shuffled every month, with the top-listed school going to the bottom of the list.

Judges provide a choice to keep from being accused of favoritism. If the judge plays favorites, the consequences can be grave. Recently, two judges and the owner of a juvenile detention facility went to prison over a scheme where the judges would sentence low-level juvenile offenders to be incarcerated in the facility, with kickbacks on the fees (paid by the state or the parents) going to the judges (Builder in youth jail scandal gets year in prison). That incident is an exception to the rule. Most judges stay way clear of any association with private sector providers of counseling or education services.

The counseling and education services do serve as an alternative to jail or prison, and mostly do more good than harm. Unless the defendant is a predator type or the offense cries out for harsh punishment, putting someone in jail as punishment is an expensive and ineffective option. Jails and prisons are almost always overcrowded, and if the person is in jail, they contribute nothing to the economy. The programs do vary widely in effectiveness and credibility, but it can be difficult to monitor and evaluate them. The people who attend them are seldom good sources for a fair assessment.

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Written by Tim Dees on June 26th, 2014