Reforming Criminal Justice by Reforming Lawyers
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
Once upon a time, the law forbade parties from waiving the right to a jury in most criminal and civil lawsuits. But populations grew, circumstances changed, and social norms evolved. Laws proliferated to address new problems, such as illicit discrimination, illegal working conditions, environmental damage, and corporate fraud. Procedural rights arose to meet new standards of fairness like the right to counsel for criminal defendants. Caseloads increased dramatically, and the pace of trials slowed.
The legal system needed to adapt—and it did. Parties were permitted to waive the jury. New laws and practices facilitated plea bargaining and civil settlements, making disputes rarely resolved by trials. Many disputes bypassed public courts and came to be resolved instead in private arbitration held sometimes online. Court systems developed technologies that sped up paperwork and allowed detailed monitoring of case processing for each judge. In short, justice systems across the United States became vastly more efficient.
That story of change could be one of salutary innovation. Yet, as Professor Benjamin H. Barton and Judge Stephanos Bibas persuasively describe in their inspired and necessary new book, Rebooting Justice, all is far from well in the nation’s civil and criminal justice systems.
Darryl K. Brown, Reforming Criminal Justice by Reforming Lawyers (reviewing Benjamin H. Barton & Stephanos Bibas, Rebooting Justice: More Technology, Fewer Lawyers, and the Future of Law) Regulatory Review (2018).