This week’s news should not cause Europeans to congratulate themselves on the superiority of their legal systems.
Although elected prosecutor Nifong was a crook, he was exposed and removed, and his case was rare. Whereas Libby’s despotic prosecutor and judge, both unelected in the European manner, are legally untouchable. And very common.
So, on balance, electing law enforcers beats giving them jobs for life.
Dorothy Rabinowitz in the WSJ:
For Mr. Fitzgerald, whose prosecutorial zeal and moral certitude are in no small way reminiscent of Mr. Nifong’s, the victory was complete with.. the severe sentence for Mr. Libby, and the judge’s refusal, last week, to allow its postponement pending appeal.
The prosecutor’s argument for a heavy sentence emphasized Mr. Libby’s alleged serious obstruction of justice–a complicated effort, considering that there was no underlying crime, or evidence thereof, and that this case, which had begun in alleged pursuit of the leak of a covert agent’s identity was, as the prosecutor himself would finally contend, not about that leak at all.
The obligation to truth, the prosecutor argued, was of the highest importance, and one in which Mr. Libby had failed by perjuring himself. It would be hard to dispute the first contention. It is no less hard to avoid the memory of Mr. Fitzgerald’s own dubious relation to truth and honesty–as, for example, in his failure to disclose that he had known all along the identity of the person who had leaked the Valerie Plame story. That person, he knew, was Richard Armitage, deputy to Colin Powell.
Not only had he concealed this knowledge–in what was, supposedly all that time, a quest to discover the criminals responsible for the leak of a covert agent’s name–he had instructed both Mr. Armitage and his superior, Colin Powell, in whom Mr. Armitage had confided, not to reveal the truth.
Interrogating a man you know to be innocent in the hope of catching him out is entrapment.
Both cases illustrate the differences between the US and European legal systems.
The US practice of electing law enforcers makes them responsive to the people. Nifong’s case shows it can go wrong, but the he was found out and easily removed.
By contrast, consider Libby’s prosecutor and judge.
Fitzgerald was appointed by Congress so can do as he likes. The judge was appointed for life by the current president.
Our earlier analysis of the performance of the Supreme Court suggests that about 40% of appointees have the character weakness that makes them despotic as soon as they’re ensconced in jobs-for-life.
Sadly for Libby, he was landed with two despots. That’s not surprising since the chances of both prosecutor and judge being despots is 40%*40%. That’s 16%, and you’d never fly an airline that crashed one time in seven.
Whereas the chances of a Nifong have to be very much lower than 40%. And you can get rid of them.
So elections beat appointments.
Incidentally, if I read the judge’s bio right, he only spent 3 years studying law. Isn’t that a flimsy basis for such high office?