Reconstructing Justice: An Agenda for Trial Reform
The United States is so ensconced in the adversary system of trial justice that it has escaped serious public scrutiny. Yet it is replete with substantive deficiencies and injustices. As few others have, this book discusses and illustrates the major problems endemic to the adversary system in a scholarly but provocative fashion. Particular attention is given to the limitations of juries and the corrupting role trial attorneys often have on factfinding and jury decision-making. The book's most salient contribution is a comprehensive and detailed scheme of proposed reforms. Many are adopted from foreign trial systems and domestic alternative dispute resolution mechanisms; others are based on a long overdue revamping of the jury system.
Is the basic procedural mechanism of the American trial just? Is the role behavior of the trial attorney essentially immoral? Are juries competent? Do attorney skills and tactics dictate trial outcomes more than do the merits of the cases? Do trial remedies really solve problems? These are some of the central issues this scholarly, but provocative book challenges us to confront. Transcending mere criticism of the trial system the author explores nonadversarial and less adversarial remedial alternatives from both domestic and foreign dispute resolution procedures. By eclectic adoption from these sources, plus some common sense reforms of the jury system, the author describes his vision of the courthouse of the future.
Beginning with a comparison of the strategies used by the opposing attorneys in the two Rodney King trials, and their decisive effect on the outcomes, the opening chapter provides an overview of the major concepts and issues raised in the book. The second chapter explores the traditional justifications for the adversary system and jury trials, suggesting why we are captive to the notion that an adversarial trial is a just trial. Chapter Three discusses the many substantial criticisms of the American trial. Two of the most significant ones are examined and illuminated more intensively over the next two chapters: the questionable continuing viability of the lay jury in many kinds of cases; and the role of the attorney in flavoring--and often corrupting--the courtroom search for truth and justice. Chapter Six looks at domestic and foreign alternatives to adversarial trial court dispute resolution. In the final chapter, the author presents a comprehensive, detailed blueprint for reform to meet the inevitable needs of our trial system in the years to come. This book will have particular appeal to legal educators, practicing attorneys, judges and government administrators. But anyone with an abiding interest in the quality of trial justice will be intrigued by it.