Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sweet Land of Liberty

185 to 1 went a recent vote in the U.N. regarding whether juveniles should be eligible for life imprisonment without parole sentences. The United States, great champion of liberty throughout the world, was the lone dissenter.

In discussing the American trend to disregard international norms, the New York Times noted that:

"In its sentencing of juveniles, as in many other areas, the legal system in the United States goes it alone. American law is, by international standards, a series of innovations and exceptions. From the central role played by juries in civil cases to the election of judges to punitive damages to the disproportionate number of people in prison, the United States is an island in the sea of international law."

Perhaps one of the few areas in which my alma mater, GMU Law (which was generally a topnotch inculcator of the skill of demolishing sacred cows) was deficient was its implicit assumption that the American legal system was the best in the world, both generally and in almost every area, in terms of rights, liberty and efficiency.

In fact, foreigners are often shocked by the relative lack of protections in the American system, whether it involves civil discovery, appellate rights, lack of meaningful double jeopardy protection and even lack of a right to a jury trial involving strings of misdemeanors that could lead to hundreds of years in prison.

Nevertheless, many conservatives continue peddling the standard line that "Americans have the best legal system in the world," without ever offering a shred of evidence to support the claim.

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