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Americans’ Expectations of Justice

Eric D. Oberer Author Interview

Courts of Law Not Courts of Justice illuminates various issues in the U.S. legal system and provides insight to help readers understand them. Why was this an important book for you to write?

When I was in college and then law school, I had a very idealistic mindset on how the justice system in the U.S. works. But once I saw how it really works from my time as a prosecutor and in other legal roles, I thought it was important to write a book to apprise aspiring legal minds, and the public at large, of how things work in the real world… the world outside of academia and theory. I also felt it was important to explain to the American public why what they grow up believing is “justice” is not the same as the version of “justice” our system strives to obtain so that they can perhaps be less frustrated with it, appreciate its core values, and explain why this may not be a bad thing. Ultimately, I wanted to align Americans’ expectations of justice with those they can expect from our legal system, explain why there is this disconnect, and shift the paradigm of the American public so hopefully there is less discontent with, and even civil unrest over, outcomes in our justice system that do not always seem to be just.

What is a common misconception you feel people have about the U.S. legal system?

The biggest misconception of the American public, that often leads to frustration, hopelessness, and civil unrest, is their expectations of justice and that which the American justice system actually provides. Americans are raised to believe and taught in schools that justice means what the dictionary defines as justice – merited rewards or punishments and receiving what one deserves. However, the American justice system was designed to protect against governmental overreach and to ensure that there are many, many protections against innocent people being convicted of crimes. As a result, many otherwise guilty people often go free so that every American is protected against the risk of wrongful conviction. That version of “justice” is not what people are raised to believe “justice” really means. Their expectation of the dictionary version of “justice” often frustrates them. This frustration can be alleviated by an understanding of the holistic aims of our system that can, in individual cases, produce unjust results.

What kind of research did you undertake to complete this book?

After having spent time prosecuting thousands of cases as an Assistant State’s Attorney in Baltimore City, litigating and trying cases as a civil litigator, working in various other legal roles, spending significant time around high-level policy makers, and years of reflection, I thought it important to write this book based on keen insights gleaned over those years and reflections related thereto. Once I was ready to write about these insights, I spoke with judges, former prosecutors, assistant attorneys general, civil litigators, and historians to get the benefits of their views and opinions. I did empirical research on the justice system which was also backed by statistical analysis. I then pulled together the statistics, empirical research, but most importantly, keen insights of those legal experts I spoke with, along with my own experiences and insights derived therefrom, and wrote the book. It then went through the hands of multiple editors to tighten the language so as to not be overly verbose or extraneous in order to respect the reader’s time and provide a book that said as much as possible in as few words as possible for a better, more efficient reading and learning experience.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from your book?

I hope readers will come away with a new level of awareness that has been generated by critical thinking on the aims of our justice system, the history behind its making, and the questions presented regarding whether our system is one that is the best in the world and is supported by our values, or whether there is a better system elsewhere. I want them to think about what is important to them in constructing a justice system and to then decide whether our current system reflects those values. If it does, I would like them to understand that, while not perfect and at times limited, those imperfections and limitations are necessary to produce a system that reflects those values. As such, an acceptance of its flaws is necessary to achieve the adherence to the values that our justice system reflects. And if they think there is a better system elsewhere, to think about how the attributes of those systems can be implemented here to bring about a more just system while still embracing the values American hold dearest in a justice system.  

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What if I told you that the American criminal justice system has never been about, is not set up to seek out, and is not equipped to find, justice –- at least “justice” as understood by most? In many ways, it was designed this way by the Founding Fathers based on Benjamin Franklin’s vision that “it is better a hundred guilty persons should escape than one innocent person should suffer.”

Americans are taught that justice means fairness. They expect it from our legal system. “Equal Justice Under Law” is prominently inscribed on the Supreme Court. Yet law and justice in America are not necessarily the same thing. And they are certainly not applied in equal ways.

The disconnect between these realities and what Americans are taught about justice has led to great strife in our society. But what if everyone grew up understanding the limitations of our justice system, yet understood what it is striving to achieve? Through the Revolutionary War, historic cases, civil unrest, Broken Windows law enforcement, corrupt police and attorneys, and jury bias, the lens through which you see the American justice system is about to change, all as told by former Baltimore prosecutor –- Eric Oberer. It is time for a paradigm shift…

Courts of Law Not Courts of Justice

Courts of Law Not Courts of Justice: Why Justice is Hard to Find in America is an enlightening book about the criminal justice system in the United States and shows how it affects every citizen. This book is written in a straightforward manner, with the author highlighting and stressing the law, how justice is delivered and the impact it has on the average American. Author Eric D. Oberer reveals to the reader undisclosed issues, the role the justice system plays in delivering fair judgment, the level of integrity in the corridors of justice, and how critical persons and parties set the pace for budding legal minds. This is an illuminating book that clearly explains what ails the American justice system, and what can be done to improve the situation.

There are many things that make Courts of Law Not Courts of Justice a fascinating book. The complex rulings the author provides in the book are among the many items that I found fascinating. Readers are given a clear view of what happens in the courtroom, how the jury arrives at such rulings and why a number of rulings are more complex than others. Some of the rulings that I found to be interesting include Massachusetts v. Lizzie Borden, California Vs. O.J. Simpson, and Florida v. Casey Anthony. There are multiple other minor and major cases discussed in the book, all of which provide many lessons. In all these cases the author gives his unprejudiced opinion, and draws attention to crucial aspects of the cases and the rulings.

Many of the topics in this book are matters that are rarely taught in the classroom. The author gives the reader multiple perspectives, and allows the reader to choose for themselves what they deem is the ideal approach. Eric D. Oberer tackles theories that are not taught in academia, compares them to real life situations and engages the reader while doing it. Apart from learning about disparities in justice, the reader gets a feel of how magistrates, attorneys, and the entire legal framework operates.

Courts of Law Not Courts of Justice will open your mind and get you interested in the criminal justice system. Reading about law and justice has never been more intriguing. The author uses layman language and gives sensible explanations to his opinions. Courts of Law Not Courts of Justice is an informative read that I recommend to readers that are enthusiastic about the law and anyone looking for civic education.

Pages: 188 | ISBN: 1639887687

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