Americans have been shocked recently by stories in the news about the way our legal system has been treating those who victimize our kids. Plea bargains and legal technicalities have led to probation and leniency rather than punishment for violent sexual offenders.
This disturbing pattern has come to light and exposed a major flaw in our legal system. People are confused and frustrated by the lack of punishment for these heinous crimes, and they are demanding justice and protection when it comes to our children.
The judges in these cases and those who defend them say the outcomes are appropriate and well within legal guidelines. They point to other judges who have ruled the same way in similar cases. They denounce anyone who questions these decisions, and they respond to demands for accountability by claiming there needs to be judicial independence. They argue that judges need to be free from outside pressures when deciding a case and that public scrutiny and accountability cloud the decision-making process.
Does this mean these judges lack the character to make just decisions on their own? Are they incapable of objective thinking aside from an institutional mechanism that removes any outside considerations? If this is true, then we have good reason to be concerned about the people we have on the bench and we need to do something to correct it.
Independence is necessary and the Constitution provides for the separation of powers. But an imperial judiciary that sees itself and its methods as somehow beyond the scope of public examination is simply wrong. Having an independent judiciary doesn’t release judges from the responsibility of upholding the values of the people.
Accountability is a must. And we should be reviewing our judges, but we also need to take a good, hard look at our entire legal system. Every aspect of how these offenders are treated should be re-evaluated because too often when it comes to protecting our kids, the decisions of our courts don’t reflect the views of society.
Nothing should be off the table. Judges, prosecutors, legislators and attorneys all need to work together so that what is happening here in Columbus, and in other cases around the country, won’t happen anymore.
It's time to protect our kids, give parents a sense of security about their children’s safety and provide the victims of these crimes the justice they deserve.
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