Friday, May 1, 2009

Court reforms

I'd like three reforms in the court system:

1. An acknowledgement of the inequality of the two sides financially. The plaintiff always has control over when they file suit, what allegations they make, and who they pull in. The defendant has no control over who sues them, when they're sued, or what they're sued for. The awarding of costs and fees should reflect this. If the defendant in a case prevails, all fees and and costs incurred should be awarded to them unless the plaintiff can show exceptional circumstances that weigh against such an award. If the plaintiff prevails, court fees should normally be awarded but costs should not be awarded unless plaintiff can show that defendant had no reasonable basis for holding out. IOW if you sue someone you bear your own costs unless you can show defendant was solidly in the wrong and knew it, and if you're sued and win you normally won't be out-of-pocket anything.

2. A "put up or shut up" deadline. Once discovery's over, the judge asks one question of both sides: "Are you prepared to go to trial?". The only acceptable answers are "Yes." and "No.". No equivocation, either you are or you aren't. If you answer "Yes.", then that's it. You will be appearing in court. After this point settlement isn't allowed, the only options are a ruling on the merits by the judge or a jury, or a dismissal of the case with prejudice. But be careful, because if you answer "No." then the judge will end the matter right then and there. He can dismiss the case with prejudice or, if one party's ready and the other isn't, he can rule in favor of the party that answered "Yes.".

3. Once a lawsuit's filed, the first thing the plaintiff has to do is go before the judge and present evidence supporting their case. They don't have to have enough to win, but they do have to have enough to convince a judge that they've got at least the beginnings of a case. If you can't even do that much, the judge can dismiss your case on the spot. Defendant only has to answer your allegations once you've convinced a judge you have actual evidence to back them up.

All three are intended to make it harder for parties to use the courts as a bludgeon to coerce other parties into giving in upon pain of the massive expense of actually defending yourself in court.

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