“First…Kill All the Lawyers”
Facing the judicial system is frightening. Charges have been brought and now you must face them in open court. There will be no secrets and likely little mercy. The first lump to hit y0ur throat will be during your arraignment…”How do you plead?” is perhaps one of the toughest and easiest questions that will ever be posed to you. “Not guilty,” is your reply and you know these are the opening words to the next chapter in your life.
In this section of pages we currently provide essays to spark ideas and stimulate conversation. However, we will be adding
- resources for criminal defense attorney’s
- resources for helping clients find the right criminal attorney
- questions asked by many facing criminal charges and the court system
- tips for coping with the changes taking place
By c j oakes
The title quote is taken from William Shakespeare’s play Henry VI (Nations, 2008). This is a fitting title for when the founders of the United States judicial system began drafting the Constitution it well sums the prevalent attitude toward the professional lawyer. However, it was this very distrust that led the founders to pen many of the hallmarks of the modern criminal justice system. It was a result of the foundations laid by those esteemed men that the system of today evolved into what it has become.
The Principle of Jury Nullification
The colonists prior to the Revolution were subject to numerous common-sense violations of human rights. The English courts used the jury system in the colonies, but at time the Crown would have the trial held by maritime courts. This was done to avoid a jury trial if the Crown believed that the jury would judge the law rather than the man.
This practice came to be known as jury nullification and it was this principle that became one of the hallmarks of the United States justice system, though it is under fire today. In this section of CriminalJusticeLaw.us you will find Essays such as…
- All Rise
- Bill Wills Bill
- Case-by-Case: Defense of Self and Home
- Criminal Procedure and the Bill of Rights
- Do Presses or Due Process
- Future American Court Issues: Plea Bargains, Nullification, and Restoration
- How to Build a Firm Law
- No Rules, Just Rights
- Rights and Responsibilities
- Rights and Wrong
- Victimization and its Effects within the Criminal Justice System
In addition, we will be adding…
- Tools Developed to help Criminal Defense Attorney’s and their clients
- Information useful to anyone seeking information about certain charges
- Laws pending in Congress pertaining to Criminal Law
- U.S. Supreme Court Cases impacting Criminal Law and Justice
- Information related to International Criminal Justice & Law
- A Directory of Important Links Related to the Judiciary and Law
Coming to CriminalJusticeLaw.org, we will be dividing this section into two parts:
A) The Courts
B) Crimnal Law
These sections generally will include…
- Capital punishment
- Grand jury
- Judicial system
- Justice of the Peace
- Plea bargain
- Sentencing Goals
Biographies of Important Contributors/Judicial Figures
Evidence – No criminal case can proceed without some evidence. In fact, the evidence is one of the key elements which in recent years have contributed to exonerations of those wrongfully convicted. In fact, the evidence is one of the key tools that a good defense attorney has for gaining a release for his client. Therefore, considerable attention will be given to every possible element of evidentiary procedure including…
- Chain of Custody
- False evidence
- Lost/Stolen Evidence
- and more
Flowcharts of the Court Systems
History of Courts
List of Courts in the United States
List of Courts, International
List of Prosecutors in the U.S.
Listing/Directory of Defense Attorney’s in the U.S.
List of International Prosecutors
List of Defense Attorney’s Worldwide
Wrongful Convictions – Much can be learned from wrongful convictions. For this reason, we are going to include stories and other information related to wrongful convictions wherever they occur. The goal is to provide information helpful to current and future defendants as well as their attorney’s.
Administrative Law – Although Admin law is often ignored, it must be recognized that there is a fine line between it and criminal law. Here we explore that line.
Criminal Law Procedure – In the United States and most of the world there are set procedures in place for trying those accused of crimes. Each of the following procedures is common to criminal law in most of the western world. In alternate concepts, we explore judicial ideas from other parts of the world.
- Arrest warrant
- Constitution, The
- Important Concepts
- Actus Reus
- Mens Rea
- Corpus Delecti
- Habeas Corpus
- Presumption of innocence
- Probable cause
- Right to silence
- Search warrant
- Alternate concepts
Codified/Statutory law – In these pages we will examine the pros and cons of codified law with a view to understanding how to build a system that is more just.
Common-Law – The United States has a system derived from the ancient concept of common-law. We shall compare this system to the existing U.S. Dual Court System and those of other nations.
Defense, Court Appointed – So many people today face the court system with the help of a court appointed attorney. For this reason, some of our readers may like to know what to expect, how to assist in their case, and what to do if their attorney does not work on their behalf.
Defense Strategies for
- Aggravated assault
- Assault (Simple)
- Computer Crimes
- Crimes against children
- Crimes against women
- Crimes against seniors
- Disorderly conduct
- Domestic violence
- Driving under the influence
- Drug abuse violations
- Hate Crime
- Human trafficking
- Illegal Occupation
- Juvenile Crime
- Motor vehicle theft
- Organized Crime
- Political Crime
- Public Order Crime
- Prison-Related Crime
- Sex offense
- Violent Crime
Future of Criminal Law Procedure – Criminal Law procedure changes often. At least each new generation must come to terms with the procedures in place for them. What is the future of criminal law? Let’s see, shall we?
History of Law – It has been said that humans cannot safely travel the road ahead without knowing where they have been. True or not, the history of law is at minimum an interesting excursion.
Martial Law – History, legality, and what to do in case of
Precedent – Because precedent plays such an important role in the deciding of cases, we will create tools and articles to help win cases.
Supreme Court – Highlights of Supreme Court Decisions and how they affect cases pending and future
* * *
Continuing with article….
In two places the Constitution guarantees a trial by jury, in Article III, Section 2 and again in the Bill of Rights’ Sixth Amendment. The Sixth Amendment goes further adding that the trial must occur within the district in which the crime occurred (Conrad, 1999). This not only guaranteed that a jury of the people would hear the case but also that some future form of the United States government could not transfer the case as the British had done.
By the time of the Revolution, most states had laws restricting the number of lawyers, known then as barristers. This was to avoid certain problems related to professional lawyers under the British justice system. The case of John Zenger in 1735 highlighted one such problem. Zenger was the editor of a New York newspaper and had been accused of slander by the royal governor, William Cosby. So as to railroad Zenger, Cosby threatened all New York lawyers with disbarment should they defend him. Zenger hired Andrew Hamilton of Pennsylvania (who was immune to the Governor’s threats because he was from another state) and prevailed in the case (Schmalleger, 2009; Conrad, 1999). As a result of such factors (cowardly attorneys controlled by the state bar) the colonists distrusted professional lawyers. To all appearances, lawyers could easily become puppets of the state, as had ALL the lawyers of the New York Colony in Zenger’s case.
The U.S. Dual-Court System
It was such distrust of lawyers coupled with the distrust of government that led to the formation of the dual court system.
The Dual-Court system is very simple: The states have courts over which, they retain sovereignty unless the case or law in question overreaches the states authority. In such events, the Federal judiciary would then hear the case and rule accordingly. If this does not settle the issue, then the U.S. Supreme Court becomes involved (Schmalleger, 2009).
Over time, as the nation grew and evolved, the United States added additional courts as needed to respond to differing segments of society and to streamline the system. As the nation grew in both size and population, the federal courts divided into districts, of which there are currently 94.
Each district established courts of appeal. Courts are provided to new territories; there are currently three such. There has come to be a separate court for military personnel, tax courts, claims courts, international trade courts, and veteran’s courts. Each court has a specific purpose in settling matters and disputes expected in a nation of this size (Schmalleger, 2009).
The State courts developed and evolved over time with the growth of the nation, but the matters handled by state courts differ sharply because of the historic foundations of the dual court system.
First, all states have developed lower courts, sometimes called misdemeanor courts. Lower courts handle simple cases considered too petty for the higher courts. These have very limited jurisdiction and usually handle cases involving non-felony violations, traffic tickets, family matters such as custody hearings and divorces, and other relatively minor matters (Schmalleger, 2009); city courts are a prime example; city courts hear only non-felony cases originating within city limits.
All states then have higher courts to hear serious matters such as felony cases, lawsuits involving persons spread across many jurisdictions, and Family Trust issues such as probate, wills, and guardianship. Most states have also established intermediate appellate courts to handle simple appeals and every state has a High court to be the final arbiter in the state on matters. If resolution of a case cannot be attained by the State Supreme Court it will likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court (Schmalleger, 2009).
By developing this dual court system, the United States has attempted to maintain the delicate balance between the powers of the federal government and the powers of the individual states. This balance was sought through the Constitution and was the primary reason for drafting the 10th Amendment.
The judicial balance is very simple: The states can retain sovereignty provided such sovereignty does not impede upon federal law and limits. Within the Bill of Rights and the Constitution such limits are ennumerated. The intent of this balance in the dual court system is to protect the states rights in governing their own boundaries while preventing potential overreaching of authority by the federal government as England had overreached the colonies.
The Irony of Jury Nullification
It is an irony that the very issue (jury nullification) that the colonists sought to protect against future encroachment by the federal government (as England had done) should be the very issue the states have willingly forsaken. Judges of today on the state level routinely instruct jurors to rule only according to the law; the juror’s conscience or opinion of the law is to be dismissed. Jurors are instructed to adhere only to what the law proscribes and not step outside those boundaries. In other words, jurors are instructed against nullification (Gillespie, 2010). Given that it was the power of juries to nullify that helped to shaped the dual court system enjoyed by the states, it is ironic and silly that the states should willfully abrogate this power. However, that is the situation in every state today.
It was this very concept of jury nullification that led to the end of that failed experiment called Prohibition and it is jury nullification that protects free people from the tyranny of government.
Today in most courts, lawyers are often instructed, under threat of disbarment, to avoid any hint of nullification (Jackson, 1999). Given the history surrounding the states struggle against an England bent on preventing the common man from judging those laws he wants to uphold or eliminate one would think that attacks on nullification would never come from the states, yet that is the case. What this means for the future of the dual court system one can but surmise.
- Conrad, C. (Nov 1999). Jury Nullification: Jurors Flex Their Muscles. USA Today Magazine, 128(2654),
- Gillespie, N. (Jan 2003). Jury Nullification (Editor’s Note). Reason, 34(8), 4.
- Jackson, P. (Jan/Feb 1999). Jury Nullification. Humanist, 59(1), .
- Nations, H. (2008). “The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Lawyers” Shakespeares Tribute to Trial Lawyers. Retrieved from http://howardnations.com/shakespeare.htmlSchmalleger, F. (2009). Criminal Justice Today: An Introductory Text for the 21st Century (10th ed.). : Prentis Hall.