Friday, October 14, 2005

"Justice" slowly resumes

New York Times report on New Orleans justice system

Six weeks after Hurricane Katrina's flooding and evacuations demolished the
justice system in New Orleans, some constitutional rights are being applied
again. Some of the prisoners are getting hearings, reports The New York
Times, on whether they are eligible for bail, a right guaranteed by the
Eighth Amendment. But another right, the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial, is being suspended.

While it is understandable given the state of chaos, it is worth noting the
failure of the administrators of the system of justice to prepare for the
continuation of the justice system after a hurricane. It is obvious now
that emergency planners need to plan for the continuation of the justice
system, just as they plan for resumption of power supply, potable water,
food, transportation, housing, hospitals and schools.

When the nature of an evacuation changes from flight for temporary refuge
from a storm to permanent migration, the nature of a jury trial changes.
What does the jury pool look like in the new New Orleans? How does one get
a jury of one's peers, when one's peers are scattered across the nation?

When a city has no money, and the basis for tax revenues are lost -- no
real estate taxes paid on destroyed properties; no sales taxes from
tourists who aren't present -- the ability to carry out a criminal justice
system may be lost as well.

Even though the drama of the Katrina tragedy is not heard in the hourly
news round-ups now -- new tragedies, new scandals are the news -- only a
few minutes consideration reveals that tribulations of a million people
once living along the Gulf coast are achingly tragic, and will continue for

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