Many times I have read the suggestion that we need to replace judges in Family Law with a jury? But what would this mean and what would the impact be? Better, worse, would all of the issues of bias, bad decisions magically go away, or would juries provide the same result with even more problems?
The criminal justice system is already impacted by the lack of jurors available. Given the additional burden this demand would place on the jury system could be enough to break the entire system, criminal and civil.
Lets say we did do go forward and convert Family Law to a jury system. What if to do this we said it would require every adult over the age of 18 would be “drafted” so to speak and serve anywhere from a month or more each year to serve in Family Law. This would be in addition to jury service in criminal cases. Would every adult in this country be prepared for this type of commitment?
Would families and individuals be in a position to obtain full time care for the children or other person in their care for that person to serve? Never mind the financial cost if that were necessary and what of the loss in income to serve as a juror at $15.00 a day in Family Law? How many families or individuals could take on this additional burden in this economy, where keeping a job is tough enough. Another issue I won’t at this moment touch upon. The impact to employers to keep job positions open when an employee serves.
What about transportation, how many individuals would have the ability to pay and/or bear the burden to transport themselves to court houses, hundreds of miles from their home every day to serve on a jury without reimbursement, food, housing etc?
A great many number of people, very committed people, who want to improve the Family Law court system have made this suggestion. But in their rush to put forth solutions the full impact of this suggestion is rarely recognized or discussed. The suggestions could result in an even worse scenario.
Already in criminal courts, attorneys try to identify bias in advance of the trial, ask about ability to serve etc. What would the impact be on these issues in Family Law. Isn’t it possible that a juror may feel the need to “right the wrong” done to them personally. Or correct a wrong to a family member, friend, coworker or to a particular gender or group in this format. Or the other side of the spectrum which exists for judges and juries, the possibility that they are blind to the fact that they have a bias.
Jurors may intentionally take action to punish a parent for the wrongs because of their sex, their perception of the individual in front of them, one versus the other. The way a Petitioner or Respondent may phrase their statement, dress, walk, speak, education, religion, culture, the list is endless. And the all important one which is how well an individual comes across. It will impact juries too just as it does judges! I won’t even begin to address the process of jury selection for Family Law. What delays that would cause.
Considered, if you will, that a majority of criminal and civil cases in which a jury is involved, there is still no level of comfort in the rulings? A number of headlines across the country frequently report the results of civil and criminal trials in which the country, community or families of victims have strongly spoken out with their dissatisfaction with the decision made by the jury.
But the harsh reality is that right now, the country is not in a position to scrap the Family Law Court System and start over, not financially, physically, emotionally on any level. What we need to focus on fixing the system that we have already in place. You know the saying, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know. Same applies here. We need to fix our already existing system.
Because we have failed to do it in the past, does not mean that we have/will fail in the future. The current economic crisis may in fact be the very environment we need to bring about change.
Please don’t misunderstand, I encourage conversation. Support the process of discussing what might be possible, to ensure no stone is left unturned. But I have been dealing with Family Law a very long time now as a police officer, nearly 24 years in all and now as a Divorce Coach.
As a police officer I witnessed the decimation of families on a level more violent, more deadly, and wider in scope unprecedented by the view of the public in most cases. All of which lead me to spend ten years researching the issues of Family Law on my own time and at my own cost. Seeking solutions that could be implemented now without the cost and time necessary to change the law in each state. This really is possible. Much simpler, and for far less than ever thought possible.
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