For several years now, “Cafe” courts have been all the rage. What’s a “Cafe” court? It is a court specifically geared to a specific subset of persons who have been identified (by someone… anyone apparently) as requiring special services and dispensations that ordinary persons don’t get. For instance, we have: Family Court; Integrated Domestic Violence Court (a/k/a IDV); Family Treatment Court; Juvenile Treatment Court; Veterans Court; Drug Court; Mental Health and Sex Offense Courts; and even Gambling Court.
I’m sorry I am not ready to jump on the politically correct band wagon, but my opinion is that these cafe courts are a farce.
What happened to equal justice under the law? Why is a veteran entitled to more lenient treatment than the guy who has volunteered at the City Mission every weekend for the past 25 years? Why does a cocaine addict who broke into a house and stole a TV get a slap on the wrist and referral to treatment instead of a trial and jail time? Why should a compulsive gambler who has flushed his rent payment down the one-armed-bandit toilet get special treatment when he steals $50 from the office petty-cash to give it one more pull?
Courts were never meant to “treat” people’s problems and should not endeavor to do so. Treatment is the domain of health care professionals, not judges and lawyers.
Don’t get me wrong, I think there is merit to Family Court and its less arduous procedures for solving many of the issues that arise in custody, visitation, child support, etc., situations. To do so in Supreme Court would be exceedingly expensive and time consuming. Kudos to Family Court.
However, and I am going to take some flak for this, I can find no reasonable justification for the existence of IDV Court. Actually, I would argue that there are constitutional issues raised by the existence of IDV Court which can severely prejudice people and deny them a fair trial. Take for instance the guy who is unfairly accused of harassing his wife in the course of a divorce (another politically incorrect statement, but it is usually the guy on the wrong end of IDV Court, so I’ll go with it). He gets a trial on the criminal matter before the IDV court hears the divorce. Maybe he is acquitted of the criminal charges. However, the IDV judge has heard all these horrible things about him, that don’t rise to the level required for the criminal conviction. But that judge heard all the dirt, nonetheless. Maybe a lot of that dirt would have been inadmissible in the divorce hearing. How exactly do you unring that bell? The judge heard all the bad stuff and acquitted the guy, but now the judge has all that bad stuff in his or her head while making the decisions in the divorce which occurs thereafter. I ask you… is that fair and unprejudiced? How would YOU like to be the guy on the receiving end of that decision? I wouldn’t want to be that guy! No matter how much the judge recites the sacred mantra “I am a Judge, I can disregard what I heard and make an impartial decision.” Thank you judge, but you are also HUMAN!
Shall I go on? Lets talk about Mental Health Court for just a second. I think that by definition, if someone is so mentally screwed up that they need the services of Mental Health Court, they need the services of a Psychiatrist on an urgent basis. The person should not just get a free pass and referral for services and a follow-up by the court every month. Stabilize that person, and send him or her to trial or let them cut a deal, the way everyone else has to do it. If their defense is mental illness or incapacity, they can deal with that like Muzzamiel Hassan did and have a trial… (have fun in the can, Mo! I hope you make lots of new friends!).
Drug Court: It’s a crime. Period. Don’t do it and don’t whine when you get caught and have to face the music. If that doesn’t work for you, go get some treatment or watch a few episodes of Intervention. When they take the drug laws off the books, feel free to snort that coke to your heart’s content (I’ll still take a pass on it).
We have a court system set up and it has provided answers to tough questions for several hundred years now. I honestly believe that the reason many of the cafe courts have been set up is so that politicians seeking election can point to them and say “Look what I did! Isn’t it great? Elect me!” I do not believe that one subset of people should be treated any differently under our laws than any others.
My kid goes to Tae Kwon Do a couple times a week. They start out her classes with the Pledge of Allegiance. I hadn’t said the Pledge since I was in high school before she started with those classes. The Pledge is simple, elegant, and ends with “..liberty and JUSTICE FOR ALL.” Not for some. I like the Pledge, and my kid’s Tae Kwon Do Instructor for having them recite it.