They say that you should always have an uneven number of decision makers. Or at least one that is clearly superior to take the lion share of the vote’s percentage. I’m not sure either works in the long run, because when they work together, they always seem to start working as a unit. Either they become friends or enemies from working together, or they find common ideals and use them to reach their decisions from then on. Or one becomes the leader and persuades the others into their view. Perhaps they politic their way into the role or they coerce and harass till the others toss them the bone.
So the only way to actually have the odd number of judges be clearly and truly unbiased is to have them advise as strangers, never knowing the others and never discussing their process toward the decision. So there can be no way to have back room deals (ie you vote my way on this issue and I’ll vote your way on the other one you care more about.) , We haven’t even mentioned bribes, have we?
In the larger world, how you are judged might actually have some fairness. Some presumption that they care about the law or the precedent that they are reviewing about your case. That they are learned and honest. And there is also the realization that they are usually missing some facts. But having heard the same story, the only difference is their POV. What was their rearing and education? What is their mood of the day? And in their life experiences, have they come to like or dislike someone like you? Can someone be truly unbiased?
Yet that is the premise of the legal system, is it not?
Can someone outside of your head be aware of the truth? Of what you knew or did not, what you felt or did not. What led up to the point of crisis? How can they then decide your innocence or awareness, without that insider view?
But then can a judge who knows all the internal information, remain separate enough to have an unbiased, yet informed view? They’d know the story, but they would no longer be individuated from you. There’s a phrase that goes something to the effect of “to know you is to love you”. And the opposite is true as well “to know you is to hate you”.
And when they listen to the witnesses, they presume they are informed and truthful. Yet studies show that witnesses are rarely either of those, let alone both. If they claim to be learned, the judge presumes they are. If they claim to have seen something, the judge presumes they have. And if they claim to love or hate someone, or be uninvested, it’s presumed true. I mean, why would they lie? Well it may not be a lie, per se. It might be a best known answer to themselves. People have not only superfical, but also unconscious motives for why they feel and think things. So at best, they could be claimed to be ambiguous in their emotions and thoughts.
And then there is the culture. Would it be better if the judge was of the same as the accused? They might understand the person’s inner life better, but they might not be as separate or individuated in their decision making. Which is better, understanding or separateness when it comes to judgment? Which gives a clearer, more fair decision?
And even judges can have bad days; long dockets, a bad tummy or cold, had a drink too many, a fight with their partner, money troubles, or a sleepless night… How does the court correct for that?
And how do we educate and make all judges equally aware ? If one is from a rural college and one from an urban university, can they hear cases in the same way? They don’t even take the same courses to get into law school, practice in the same situations, or even all go to law school.
With all of that, is there such a thing as a fair and equal justice system? Yet when you go before a judge, your life hangs on their decision. What is most important to you matters. At the beginning of the case, they could care less about you and your case. And by the end of the case, the judge is full of facts, half truths and lies, and harried. Impatient. They have had enough of your case. They want you gone.
So no matter what happens, at some level, you will feel unheard and disconnected from the verdict. At best, you will have ambiguous feelings. At worst, you will feel railroaded and even abused.
No matter who you are. And all that is before such things as systemic racism and gender biases go into effect.
So is the court the best thing when you want to have an unbiased, learned decision made about your life? Should it be a judge even? They are learned in laws and precedents, but in nothing like medicine or psychiatry, or unless they are one of your group, they cannot know your culture or family dynamic, can they? So they actually might be the worst possible person to make such a life altering decision. They cannot be sufficiently educated to hear your case without knowing the inside stuff.
In the end, Is the judicial system a good thing, or a stupid one? I think there are a lot of questions and a lot of problems for something that leaves you few avenues of appeal, that have any real integrity. They only turn over a decision of a lower court with malfeasance, gross error or brand new evidence. And they hate, but hate doing it. Because they feel for the lower court judge and would hate to have their own decisions overturned on appeal.
But what is the option? Or is there such a thing? IDK. I guess I’m just glad I’m not a judge.