Picture the scene….
You’re leaving a nightclub in Limerick on Saturday night, in a ossified state. Imagine then that you drunkenly throw a punch at someone and they press charges against you.
You are now facing your hearing in the District Court for this offence, along with someone facing the exact same set of circumstances. The other man goes first and is given a suspended sentence as the judge deems him to be a ”community man and a good role model, being a county football player.”
Your hearing is next and you are given a two year sentence for the same offence.
How would you feel… ?
American realism is based on this theory that judges base their decisions on non legal factors, such as their bias for a person. When in fact, decisions should be based on legal theories. This is the latest intriguing topic we’ve been covering in my jurisprudence module. Although many theorists that we discussed in the lecture such as Holmes and Frank see legal realism as a positive theory, I just can’t agree that it is a positive thing.
The harsh reality of our legal system is that although the function of the judiciary is to apply the law in a fair and equal manner, this is not always so simple. It is a scary thought that your fate lies in the hands of someone who may rule in your favour based purely on a judge’s mood or based on their hobbies or interests or even based on which judge is on duty for that day.
I found some interesting articles which seem to reflect the uncertainty of the sentencing process, one being particularly illustrative of this theory that judges can rule as they see fit and in no way based on legal evaluations.
Until next time,