By Katherine (Kate) Mortensen • June 25, 2008•Internships and Clerkships
I want to address the issue of appeals. Some of my feelings on it might result from inexperience or ignorance, so I want to give that disclaimer. But many of the cases I have been working on have been appeal issues and it has developed a sense of confusion and frustration towards appeals.
Here is the process as I understand it. Because there are no jury trials, everything here is tied before a magistrate (judge) and along with two assistants who have say in the decision, they decide the case. The standard here is reasonable doubt for criminal matters at least, I am not sure about civil matters. When a matter is brought on appeal, the attorney writes basically a brief summarizing why they felt that the judgment was erroneous. The standard of review is that the magistrate must decide whether or not a different court could have reached a different result. If they find that it could have, the appeal is granted and a different court hears the appeal.
My major issues with this system are this. (1) The magistrates here are treated like gods by officers of the court. They are referred to as “your worship” in magistrate court and as “m’lady” or “m’lord” in high court. While I recognize that we also give great reverence to our judges in the
Clearly this works for the country because they have done it this way for a long time. I have made a few attempts to get the process clarified and explained, but it is one of those things that is just part of your job so you don’t question it. This will be something I pursue for the rest of the summer in an attempt to understand.
One of the exchanges I have been having a lot lately with attorneys around the office is the discussion of jury trials versus bench trials. As I have said before, they don’t have juries here. A candidate attorney was asking me if it was like it was on TV. This led to an extensive conversation about the added psychological elements of having a jury to address. I was explaining how my friend Pavin moved a ring from his right hand to his left during a mock trial so as to make it look like he was married. I was informed that the magistrates have to adhere strictly to the law and cannot be influenced by emotion. I cannot decide which system is better. I am inclined to say that in terms of justice being administrated more fairly, the magistrate system works. But there is just something about a jury of one’s peers that really appeals to me. Maybe just because it is the system that is ingrained in me, but I like it.
This summer has resulted in a lot of questions, which I guess is why I’m here. I have made it one of my goals to figure out this appeal thing.