Under Flags, Guns, and Judges: How the Courtroom Mirrors the Wider World

  • Posted on: 10 May 2015
  • By: Anonymous (not verified)

From Fireworks - by EastWest

05.09.15 - When a friend was arrested during the recent rebellion against police and white supremacy, I found myself in a lot of court rooms. I've been in court rooms before, hell I've even stood before a judge a couple of times. Every time I've been in a court room, I've hated it. The entire system is designed to take agency and power away from everyday people; the State holds all of the cards.

When you enter the building, Sheriffs, who have taken time off from being prison guards and evicting people, are there to make sure you don’t have any weapons upon entering the building. You then have to find the right court room, sometimes realizing that you have been moved to another department without even knowing it. Court doors open generally at 9 AM; early enough to be annoying and late enough to force you to take time off work, get someone to watch your kids, and mess up your entire day.

Image result for new jim crowUpon entering the court room, you find that the room is hierarchically divided. The largest part of the room is reserved for you to sit. The chairs are shitty and uncomfortable. There are signs everywhere telling you what to do: no talking, no reading, no sleeping, no being on your phone, and you risk being in jail yourself for trying to communicate with a prisoner. Dividing the chairs from the rest of the court room is a gate which is guarded by the bailiffs who are armed with guns. Their main job is to constantly police those who have come to watch the proceedings. Beyond the bailiffs are the lawyers and the court workers who have the ability to walk freely between the main area, into the holding cells of the prisoners, and even talk with the judge. These people have various jobs, all of which allow the court to function, record information, and more over, act as a conduit between prisoners and the judge.

Hidden and out of the eyes of everyone are the prisoners. Brought in from jails and prisons often far away, they sit in holding cells and wait until they go before the judge, hoping to catch a glimpse of romantic partners, family, friends, or legal defense. Woken up often before the sun has even risen, they are then packed onto a bus for court. The racial breakdown of both the prisoners and those in the courtroom also is telling. The prisoners are almost all people of color. If they are white, they are almost all from poor backgrounds and neighborhoods. The bailiffs are almost all white, so are the lawyers and the judges. This is a colonial system of control and violence.

The judge sits at the top off the court room. They look out on everyone else and everyone looks up towards the judge. The judge is distinguished from the rest of the room by not only the fact that they sit at the highest point in the room, but also because they wear a huge robe, have a gavel, and take long and annoying breaks which prolong the proceedings. We usually even have to stand up when the judge enters the room; as a sign of obedience. But even beyond and above the judge lies huge American flags which watch over everyone. The placing of the flags is important, because it serves to give the illusion that the judge is compelled to action by lofty ideals which animate and guide them. The judge is directed by concepts like “justice,” and “democracy,” which ensures that the “rights of everyone” are respected. Everyone knows this to be fairytale; they simply take sides in the war. They either support the repression of the poor, despise it, a shrug their shoulders in indifference.

The majority of us, those that work or suffer because we have no work, who do not own property and sell our labor to those that do, sit in the chairs that make up the majority of the room. The police are there to enforce the rules of the courtroom, but more over to protect the authority of the State and to stop the majority in the room from freeing the prisoners that enter to be sentenced.

The lawyers also mirror those we interact with in the rest of society. Like social workers, child protective services, case managers, and bosses at work, they are a human link between us and the government. There are lawyers representing the District Attorney (DA), who stand for the interests of the State and those of the elites. They also exist to enforce the morality of the State on the rest of us. While this at times appears to be carried out to “punish” the bad people: those that steal, those that hurt and assault, those that kill – in reality as with the police, this has nothing to do with protecting the “innocent.” Instead, it has everything to do with the control over the entire population.

But while the State has high powered and highly educated lawyers at its disposal, who also have time to research laws to throw people in jail – what do normal people have? We have by and large (since lawyers are expensive), public defenders, who are lawyers who take on multiple cases of people accused of offensives at one time. These lawyers act as our representatives and speak for us. While in a court room, those facing charges by and large, say almost nothing to the judge. Instead, the judge talks mainly to the lawyers, with the defendant speaking only in short answers.

Public defenders are often nice people and mean well. They generally become lawyers because they know that the justice system is broken and they want to help people caught within it. However, ultimately their role is to simply smooth out the process of extracting money from someone (via a fine) or getting them sentenced to a ‘correctional facility.’ Just like how modern unions and non-profits take the fight out of the streets and workplaces and place them into board rooms between bosses and bureaucrats, public defenders act as specialists that help play out a dance between the State and the rest of the population of repression.

Ultimately, a normal person walking into a court room facing charges has little to no resources. We face the full power of the State against us and the police to contain us. Armed with only an over-worked and stressed out representative who attempts to advise us to what decisions will hurt us “the less,” we have few options.

The large decisions; decisions which will affect a person the rest of their life, largely happen behind closed doors. In meetings between the judge and the two groups of lawyers, deals are made. It is in this way that many people “plead out.” This creates a steady stream of cash into the State’s pockets. It also ensures that millions of people will be locked away in correctional facilities, be placed on probation, sent to juvenile hall, or out on parole.

The courtroom is a miserable and horrible place. Many times that we go to court our court dates move or change, or if we are lucky, are thrown out all together. The whole system is arbitrary and pointless. It does nothing to offer relief or help to those that are harmed by individuals. Instead, it takes people away from their families, locks them in cages, and breaks apart communities. This does not happen on an even keel across the social spectrum. Indigenous people, African-Americans, Latinos, and the poor moreover all face the brunt of the State’s assault. Such a system is not designed to make poor and working-class communities free or safer – but instead keep revolt from spreading.

There is no way to reform the court room, just as there is no way to reform the prison. We can fight conditions and push for changes to make things better for ourselves, but ultimately out of these struggles we have to destroy and abolish these systems of power and control forever from our lives.

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Comments

liberal activisty disillusionment. in other words, nothing particularly radical or insightful. reads like a high school field trip report.

Naysayers, doomsayers, etc FUCK OFF.

If you want better content, write it yourself!

Yeah, they need to jazz this shit up with confusing buzzwords that only a few people will understand!

But the Courtroom is the self-deferential inward-outward reification of the Existent in a noun-and-verb relational-symbolic predisposition, ya!

your comment encapsulates itself

So that scene in Good Will Hunting where he's defending himself by lecturing the judge on legal precedents and the right to self defense is not realistic?

Of course it's unrealistic, most things in movies are. In real life the judge would likely not be at all impressed and would probably see the Matt Damon character as a smart ass young punk with a big mouth who needs to be taught a lesson. My sister works as clerk in a courthouse (I don't know how she can stand it) and the whole mentality of just about everyone employed there, from the clerks to the judges, with exception of the public defenders is very pro-cop. I think that perhaps the only thing that keeps my sister from being totally reactionary herself is the fact that she is a gay women working in an overwhelmingly homophobic environment.

1. the courts are a natural result of a belief in moral judgement.

2. moral judgement orients to the notion of an ‘act’ that is 'causally authored' by a ‘person, group, nation, organization’.

3. the ‘act’ is an idealized subject-verb-predicate intellectual concept ‘he did such and such’, synthetically isolated from the relational activity continuum.

4. monopolizing property and using the access people need to its essential life-sustaining resources to extort labours [make slaves of others] is ‘fielding’ that outside-inwardly ['inductively'] shapes ‘hitter’ behaviour.

5. moral judgement and law courts employ an all-hitting, no-fielding worldview that sees ‘acts’ that it deems are the full and sole responsibility of the ‘hitter’.

6. the signal passing through a semiconductor [the 'hitting'] is at the same time amplified/attenuated/shaped or shutdown by the varying ‘fielding’ in the energy-charged body of the semiconductor. if a ‘spike’ appears as output as 'the hitting result', it will be due to either and/or both the incoming signal or be inductively formed by the environmental ‘fielding’. the law and the courts ignore the predominating influence of ‘fielding’ when it investigates ‘acts’ and instead assumes that the hitter is fully and solely responsible for ‘his actions’, ... thus when a slave, even of the most outstanding patience and forbearing character, is taunted and humiliated to his tolerance limit by the oppressive slave-master [through the SM's monopolizing and manipulative control over access to the essentials of life], and hits him, the hitter is considered fully and solely responsible for his own ‘action’. This distorted narrow view derives from noun-and-verb Indo-European/Scientific language-and-grammar aka 'science' which employs 'predicative logic' [relational context is removed or banished to infinity by imposing absolute space and absolute time reference framing]. this is bullshit, as nietzsche points out;

an action in itself is quite devoid of value ; the whole question is this: who performed it? One and the same ” crime ” may, in one case, be the greatest privilege, in the other infamy. As a matter of fact, it is the selfishness of the judges which interprets an action (in regard to its author) according as to whether it was useful or harmful to themselves (or in relation to its degree of likeness or unlikeness to them).”— Nietzsche on ‘Morality’ and ‘Herd Behaviour’ in ‘The Will to Power’

e.g. american sniper is a courageous hero over here, and an evil assassin over there. the destroyers of the world trade towers are courageous heroes over there, evil assassins over here. moral judgement of 'actions' is inherently subjective by the one-sided all-hitter, no-fielding manner in which it depicts dynamics [see Howard Zinn's 'A People's History of the United States'].

7. it is the Western worldview that is broken in its core [it is putting language-based intellection into an unnatural precedence over experience-based intuition] and the moral judgement based retributive justice system is just one of the many symptoms coming from this 'inversion' or 'error of grammar'. Nietzsche estimated two centuries for its collapse, perhaps it won’t be that long.

I was all like whoa #8 is really gonna nail it. Especially after 1 -7. But there's no #8. WTF dude!

stayed right with me ... some don't get past three or four, ...

i'll put some multiplications in the next one, for bonus points.

Who is the intended audience of this article? Not the frquent commenters of this site. Anyone who has never been to court I suppose? Anyone else knows as well or better what's going on than the author of this article. If they are writing it in attempt to woo the uninitiated, they may do well to at least attempt to back up some of the claims they make. I feel like this piece is pretty fluffy. But, it's not for me, it can't be.

First, o'rly mod?

Next, that's all...good job everyone. :-)

You deserve this.

The only courtroom is the one that exists in your head. The discussion of "courts" existing in a "material world" is nothing more then Marxian humanist mysticism. Until the last scientist is hung from the guts of last egalitarian; only then will the ego flourish. I am ego. I am the totality.

"Liberty is the soul's right to breathe" -- Henry Ward Beecher

The genesis of courtrooms can be found in Douglas A. Blackmon's book, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II.

Before Abolition, slaves, as property, had sufficient value that they were sold for substantial sums of money, usually hundreds of dollars or more, and therefore were minimally maintained with the basic necessities to allow them to work and bring a return on that investment.

After Abolition, the 13th Amendment limited slavery to persons convicted of a crime. Crimes were invented and enforced by white former slaveowners in such a way as to return Blacks to slavery. But when a Black person was arrested, accused of a crime, and convicted, it was done informally, by any white person, as local law enforcement authorities were all white and would always take the word of a white person with regard to a black. No formal proceedings with evidence took place. The white sheriff, or whatever white people informally accused and convicted the Black person, would pronounce them convicted of a crime and then sentence them to pay a fine and court fees, usually only about $30, but much more than any Black person could pay. A mining or other corporation in need of heavy labor, or a plantation owner would then step in and offer to pay the fine and fees and let the convict work it off. But these plantations and mines had only paid a trivial sum for their slaves, so they often did not bother to feed them adequately and simply worked them to death as quickly as possible, brutalizing and killing them if they refused to work.

This situation continued until World War Two, when the Soviet Union described to the world the actual situation of Blacks in the United States. Legislation was quickly written to correct the situation, stipulating that before a person could be convicted and legally sentenced to slavery, they had to appear in a real courtroom and the proceedings had to be recorded. Two Klansman could no longer grab any Black they saw, drag them to a storefront sheriff's office, and sell them for $30 to a corporation to be worked to death within weeks.

This new development started a real estate boom, with localities all over the United States building architecturally imposing courthouses to demonstrate compliance with the law. But the purpose remained the same: to provide free or very cheap Black labor to business.

In other words, the slave trade was nationalized. The cheap or free Black labor that corporations use these days is not their property but the property of the State, leased to the corporations at a profit. The slaves are still subject to beatings, torture, and death at the hands of the state, but no matter how innocent of any crime, they were all brought to trial in an intimidating courtroom, in an imposing courthouse, and a record (often tampered with) was kept of the proceedings, or, more often, the coerced plea bargain.

Guilt or innocence is rarely an issue. In the Troy Davis case, the Supreme Court ruled that if the conviction was obtained in a courtroom, subsequent proof of factual innocence cannot stay the death penalty. That's why prosecutors will sometimes illegally withhold exculpatory evidence until after the trial when it no longer matters. There are some exceptions, like the Innocence Project, which has had a few successes in getting wrongfully convicted people released from prison, but overall the courtrooms serve the purpose of continuing slavery by another name. If the courtroom atmosphere seems frightening, it should. US law has no relationship to justice whatsoever, and usually consists merely of highly formalized injustice.

A powerful demonstration that only suffers from a very liberal conclusion, though that still doesn't hinder the whole perspective on the continuation of slavery as a shadow institution in today's world.

Whether it was the first Neanderthal confined to a cave for adultery, an Hispanic imprisoned for self-administrating substances, or a Rojavan college girl told to fight an ideological war, the physical container, the walls or rocks, or the threat and fear, they are all the same, nothing. freedom does not exist as any physical state, it is in the mind.

No, it is a physical state. Like the very-physical configuration (functional hands + computer + telecommunications infrastructure + a website with mods that let you comment) that allows you to post whatever shitty incoherent, baseless comments in the vain hope of further expanding the empire of your ego online.

You're also an asshole... but that's a distinct related subject matter. Under an Islamic state (like the IS or Saudi Arabia) you'd probably have your hands cut off for this, so be thankful to all those "intolerant dogmatic supporters of the totalitarian Rojava State" for letting you being an asshole online.

Totally true. I will be by later to kidnap and enslave you. Your body will be doing my laundry, but your mind will be free. Pack a suitcase now.

And my dick will be visiting your mom, no? But seriously, sure incarceration is the physical enslavement of a person, but I was talking about the metaphysical aspect of freedom, mkay!

No no, that's not what you wrote. You said, after your usual misogynist,dumb-founded bitching against the females of Rojava, that freedom is not a physical state. Which is equal to say that every human is born from his-her dad, really.

You lose. Just as in your failed attempt to save your ass.

Keep talking.

Hippie.

Perhaps he ain't on the outside, but indeed, all the awful incoherent shit he's been writing is genuine reactionary hippie material. So yeah, fuck you, hippie!

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