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On the Courts...

A Posting: On The Courts...

In perusing the posts this morning, I found my favorite cyberspace attorney had posted to "Divorce and The Children". I am reprinting her post because I don't want it to go unnoticed. She explains the logic behind our seemingly unjust judicial system. Thank you Counselor!  Dr. Irene
B1: Submit
Date: 01/10/2000

Oh, Dear Dr. Irene, 

What a treat to visit your site. This topic has caused me a lot of thought since our (worm-tainted) exchange. One difficulty is that our court system, kind of like our system of public education, works from a "lowest common denominator" perspective. Sure, all school kids deserve the opportunity to learn Japanese or physics, but because of the need to ration our limited resources, the best standard we can reasonably expect is to require proper English and basic arithmetic. The basics, the bottom lines, more is "extra".

Similarly, our court system is not infinite, the resources must be rationed. (We're getting civil trial dates in spring 2001 now, and that's here in Idaho, where justice is still somewhat hand crafted, not a check-one-box system, yet.) Courts do not wish to minimize their (really quite fragile) power in entering orders that cannot be enforced. For example, if a judge should Order the sun to rise in the west, it's not going to happen, and people may simply disregard any further orders coming from that Judge. Similarly, if a Judge mandates that the parties "Must speak nicely to each other...", that's going to be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce. So much of verbal abuse is subjective. If someone tells me "you don't know what you are talking about", I simply think they are mistaken, and go about my day. If an abuser says the same thing to a victim, especially if it has been said with vehemence and regularity for years, it could hurt as much or more than a punch in the stomach. 

The difficulty with the Court system is that a punch in the stomach is objective, it is pretty easy to determine whether "it" happened or not. Hurtful words, as you so beautifully noted, are just the same as physical abuse to the recipient, but are not readily discernable to the Judge. It's too subjective. What words hurt one person may not bother another. Our court system has placed the common denominator fairly low - No Hitting! No Hitting! That's something objective. (And yet, many parents advocate spanking, so maybe Just a Little Bit of Hitting, but only your own kids, is the real bottom line. Hope not, hitting teaches hitting, but spanking is not today's topic, and I digress.....) 

Courts want to maintain their strength by entering only Orders that can be objectively enforced. It is also important to have a system that produces similar results under similar circumstances, which is why our Supreme Court building in Washington is carved with the words "Equal Justice Under Law". The Court system is not the place to fix a sick relationship, but it is the place where the "bottom line" can be established. And anyone can ask for "extras" like, "the parties will limit their contact with each other to issues regarding the minor child..." I've typed that a few times, but it is not a standard because that is not appropriate in every situation.

Prove to a Judge why that provision would be necessary, and you'll get it. Then follow up and prove it to the abuser when the provision is violated. Prove it by getting knowledgeable experts to testify about the pattern of verbal abuse. 

Thanks, Dr., for providing this forum for my ramblings. See you in cyberspace!


You can read our whole exchange starting here!