I usually tend to favor a "loser pays" policy with civil cases, and would extend that to criminal cases (the government paying if its own efforts yield a declaration that the person did nothing wrong)... but seeing this story with the Clintons makes me think about the drawbacks of such a system.
1. The one that made me think of it these problems is the biggest concern with the Clintons: What about people who have such a magical ability to make others around them, including the judicial system itself and their supposed enemies, fall down in servitude? People with a history of manipulating the judicial system (like the Clintons) are hard enough to "take down" already, but it SHOULD be done; if you have a serious case to bring against such people, the likelihood of losing despite your case's legitimacy, ADDED to the high stakes of having to pay your "victim"'s expenses when that happens, is just more disincentive to even TRY to ever get such people held accountable for their actions. You'd have to go into it knowing you have a much higher chance of being yet another one of the people whose lives are ruined by such corrupt-yet-powerful figures.
2. In criminal cases, it would create an incentive for judicial systems to fenagle themselves to find more people guilty, just to avoid having to pay for their defense.
3. People would no longer have any limit on how much money they can spend on a lawyer, since if you're found guilty then you're life's essentially over and how much money you owe doesn't really matter anymore. And everybody with a service to sell charges more to provide that service to a government than to private individuals or businesses, because of the lack of market controls or spending discipline to prevent it; just look at the sharp upward trend in the cost of higher education, which is government-supported in various ways and isn't yielding a comparable increase in education results. Thus, the total costs of trials would launch upward, which would feed into the problem of #2.
4. Magnifying the consequences in cases that come out "right" always sounds good, but, in cases that get the "wrong" verdict, it only deepens the problems and potential for abuse and tragedies with real people's lives. And, the USA's judicial systems have gotten far too distracted from the basic goal of serving justice for this to be ignored. I wouldn't want the results of a misfire/backfire to be made more severe unless and until we reform the judiciary to quit letting itself get so influenced by so many screwball technicalities and misdefinitions and other such things OTHER than the true facts of the case and the pursuit of justice.
Not that I'm completely convinced that "loser pays" is a bad idea either... the positive and negative effects seem impossible to weigh and compare.
Edited by Delvo, 17 July 2003 - 05:13 AM.