Law in Contemporary Society
SONG: Bob Dylan, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall



  • Incarcerated: 2.3 million
  • % of US pop: 0.997
  • Cost/year $49.7 billion
  • Incarcerated 1988: <1 million
  • Cost per year 1988: $11 billion
  • Rate of increase in jail spending as against education 6:1
  • Pfizer profit, Lipitor, per year: $12.7 billion
  • Microsoft, revenue per week: $1 billion
  • Wall St. bonuses, 2007: $30 billion
  • Wall St. bonus recipients: <25,000

Lawrence Joseph, Robinson’s Metamorphosis

  • Lawrence Joseph is a professor of law at St. Johns, a published poet who wrote three volumes and this (Lawyerland)
  • What kind of lawyer is Robinson?
    • Defense lawyer, who doesn't represent organized crime (i.e. those who can pay him a retainer) --> b/c he doesn't like being beholden to ppl
    • Tries not to do drug cases anymore, if he can help it
    • Been on both sides of the courtroom
    • Doesn't take court-appointed cases --> doesn't apply for fees under Criminal Justice Act; not letting judges set his fees.
      • His niche has become fully profitable; has no hours to put out doing CJA cases. Hard to make money doing CJA cases
    • All the above means that Robinson doesn't want any entanglements; wants cases that come and go (no relation to mob, drug cases, CJA). Wants to carve his own way
      • This is consistent w/ what he was like as a law student --> always been into doing it his way. Behind all this is the army, which he's not talking about
  • How does Robinson do the law?
    • Story about Assistant US Attorney --> When US Attorney told him to clean up his language, Robinson won the power play
      • He says he's a fucking vulgar guy, thereby asserting that he can say whatever he wants to say
    • Doesn't talk about trying cases
    • Time he practices law in the story: runs into younger lawyer and tells her she's too impatient. Advising her not to go too soon, that the opposition's case is weaker than it seems
      • That's his practice: negotiates deals w/ prosecutors. That's what the criminal justice system is about
      • He makes deals --> is a repeat negotiator
    • Chinese-Serbian burglary case
      • Prosecutor wants kid "dead" (in prison until there's nothing left of him)
        • Who's going to prosecute prosecutor from beating the kid? No one. He doesn't shoot kid b/c it would be bad for his reputation (readers of newspapers might be upset)
        • In truth Robinson is pointing out prosecutor could have killed the kid (as long as he doesn’t want to run for governor).
      • When Robinson gets the case, his problem is
        • That the state won't negotiate
        • Father won't bail kid out of Rikers -- being in is bad for the kid, and for Robinson.
          • Sidenote: we should go to jail now, see what they do in the criminal justice system
        • The kid's been massively over-indicted (which makes bargaining hard)
      • Robinson is doing this case b/c the kid's father has money (EM: is it okay that ppl make their money by taking it from the kin of the ppl who have fucked up?)
        • In Robinson's world you have to take the money from the people yourself (as opposed to working for Pfizer, where they will take the money from people and give it to you)
      • Robinson deals w/ the problems of his case by leveraging his knowledge of the affair between the judge and ADA
        • He waited until they over-fixed it
      • Robinson got the case by a referral. He found out from a client who was the focus of a pre-indictment investigation that didn't result in an indictment (he doesn't want to let anyone know about this client)
        • By even mentioning guy at all, he's sending a signal
      • In the end, the kid only does a year --> Robinson's proud of this job
        • Most ppl would have been tempted to let this kid get sent away. The attorney gets the fee no matter whether he wins or loses
    • For a living, Robinson persuades prosecutors
      • World of the lunch is his stage: jail, courtroom, courthouse, prosecutors, jail
  • Robinson is an expert on corruption. "I am a lawyer, I am never far from evil"
    • One of the reasons he's close to evil is the nature of his practice (also close to sliding into evil)
    • He's surrounded by criminals, police, etc
    • He's quoting Kafka
      • Kafka was a lawyer in the worker's comp system (being any kind of lawyer is always being close to evil, not just criminal law)
      • Robinson is undermining the proposition that it's only as a criminal defense lawyer he's always close to evil
    • Evil is in everyone. As a lawyer, you're trying to understand human nature.
      • One lawyer said that some of the kindest people he's ever known are rapists. There aren't just good guys and bad guys
      • Being a lawyer is being sensitized to the presence of all things in everybody
      • In the restaurant, he sees the illegal kid --> he sees the fear
        • He thinks about what it feels to be the ppl he represents in the course of the day. He's trying to catch what isn't being said
  • B/c the way of the conversation develops, you're compelled to compare it to Metamorphosis
    • To EM it feels like The Penal Colony, including its ultimately tragic understanding of the system
  • Who/what is Robinson becoming?
    • He's wound tight --> in danger of stroking out, has trouble breathing
    • To work wears a tan suit/white shirt
      • Trying to look old school (not into flashy criminal defense --> doesn't dress up or down)
    • He's becoming old
    • He's not delighted by who he is; he too has a little pent up rage.
    • Keeps files on lawyers. Starts w/ "lawyers and greed" one.
      • Interlocutor (Joseph's voice) says when Robinson hands him the file he slumps. Joseph says he has seen that look in lawyers before. "I'd noticed this kind of transformation in lawyers before" (p. 2). Maybe that's Robinson's metamorphosis right there
      • Robinson is a lawyer of a certain class
    • Ends w/ Janet Reno telling ABA how much she loves lawyers
      • Robinson believes he may love them too. Says America does, too: there's one in everyone's family now (the transformation will be in everyone's family)
        • There's another transformation = one going on everywhere
        • We make things happen using words, how can you not love us
    • Moot court story
      • Sign about Robinson --> his golden youth is behind him. Maybe it's eating him a little bit
    • Was hoping there would be a moment when there was exactly as many lawyers as ppl in jail
      • There might be a moment when there was one-to-one cross-over
      • EM imagines that idea came to him in the middle of a conversation w/ a piss-ant prosecutor
      • He imagines that b/c of imbalance; you have to be prepared to transform them back. Calls it a form of exacting justice
        • Would force the system to confront itself --> all the prisoners would have to confront what being the lawyer is, and all the lawyers would have to confront what being the prisoner is. It's a fairly gruesome experience for both
        • EMTs, sex workers, soldiers, criminal defense lawyers all have to disassociate, leave it behind them. That disassociated part sometimes does real harm (why Iraq veterans keep coming home and killing themselves)
          • I am lawyer I am never far from evil... but I have ways of disassociating from it
    • In Kafka's character is transformed into his loathing of himself, the displacement of all the feelings of rage and disempowerment. He becomes his own loathing of himself.
      • Robinson isn't there exactly, but he's also dealing w/ his displaced part
  • Robinson thinks everyone should know what the system is, but doesn't think the system can be changed
  • EM didn't like criminal defense, b/c he didn't like taking the house. Wanted to keep his skirts clean
    • Robinson would know what that was: class behavior
  • No one wants to be Robinson, but if we want to deal w/ increasing incarceration rates, somebody better be Robinson
  • A lawyer is a guy who solves a legal problem
    • The huge incarceration rates? That's a legal problem

-- AmandaHungerford - 01 Mar 2008

Here is an endlessly interesting article covering an expansive breadth of the ideas that we covered in this class and the prior one, though admittedly not about the criminal justice system. It analyzes how irresponsibly the medical community and Big Pharma have nursed a "want" among Americans to substitute a pharmacological quick-fix for traditional therapeutic treatment with a psychiatrist to solve all the stresses of modern life. The system encourages this illusory desire from all directions: insurance companies favoring cheap pills over expensive therapy sessions, Big Pharma implanting a "want" in the consumer with advertisements, doctors negligently prescribing pills, and more.

-- JesseCreed - 03 Mar 2008



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r4 - 22 Jan 2009 - 00:44:46 - IanSullivan
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