Wednesday, January 14, 2004

There is a story I've heard, and maybe repeated here, about a well known analytic philosopher [Belgian?] who renounced his calling after spending a day watching lawyers in a court.

I sat through 8 hours in a waiting room today, and was called in once for a voir dire and let out. The judge who introduced the legal process to us was graceful and witty as an old Jewish New Yorker can be, and calmed the fears of his nervous herd without condescending. The two lawyers, in ways opposite to each other, were uninteresting: one a mannered copy of the judge, as insecure as he had been confident; the other a younger but not young woman struggling with the pomposity and sexism of an old fart.
Rational actors, my ass. People on the whole, neither particularly smart nor particularly stupid, are nervous around authority. They often do not understand because they assume they're not supposed to. I spent some time with a Belarussian Jew who was worried about losing his job at a Yeshiva if he ended up on a jury, and an Arab immigrant who didn't know enough English to understand that he could have been let out by 9:30 if he'd raised his hand to say he couldn't understand English. I helped the system run a little more smoothly I suppose.
Law is theater.

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