The Deadman Night Rider

A forum for evening students of the SMU Dedman School of Law and other outlaws..

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

First day down -

Alright - we're one day (or night) in. All systems are go.

Last night were the opening sessions of Civil Procedure and Torts. The first year appears to focus exclusively on the civil system, perhaps because the range of disputes is so broad and offers a wide platform for debate and discussion. On the agenda for tonight are Contracts and Legal Research.

A comment Professor Pryor, who teaches Torts, made last night made me think of something I'd never realized before about the civil justice system. Her point was pretty simple: Tort law is private, not public - you don't need permission from any government authority to file a lawsuit. No big deal.

But then I realized that it is a big deal. What it means is that every single citizen has access to the power of government via the civil system, because you borrow the power of government to enforce a decision when you win a suit. When I thought about different places I've lived, like Uzbekistan, where the reach of authority is absolute and the power of government is completely removed from the people, just how big, how amazing, that idea is really came home to me.

It made me think of something else - the homeless ex-lawyer who started the case about the Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the State Capitol in Austin. Putting aside any problems with his motives and goals, I saw something there. As a person of no means or any real standing, he filed a handwritten complaint on loose-leaf notebook paper that put in motion a process that eventually reached the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. The sheer access to power that indicates - that a guy at the bottom can shake the system all the way to the top - is what makes the politburo-mullah-ocracy types think that we are all madmen. Isn't that fantastic?

2 Comments:

Anonymous Johnny said...

One thing that wasn't said, but should be said.... as attorneys, we will have a huge amount of power. As in the book "1L", we will have power to destroy lives and really change people in ways they may not want. With that power comes responsibility.... While Torts (and Tort reform) may have the ability to "change the fabric of our lives" ... how do we make sure that change is for the benefit of society in general (not just our future multi-million dollar lifestyles)

7:59 AM  
Blogger rkellus said...

You know, old trial lawyers (read: plaintifs) will advocate that the days of the government not acting as gatekeeper to the civil justice system are coming to a close as quickly as you can say "TORT REFORM!"

3:40 PM  

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