Were Civil Lawsuits Expected by The "Founding Fathers" - Searcy Denney

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John Hopkins

Did the "Founding Fathers" Anticipate Civil Lawsuits?

» Written by // June 4, 2009 //

To the level we see them today; perhaps not. What the Founding Fathers did recognize is to have a civilized society, there must exist some avenue for the redress by citizens of wrongs; whether perceived or real. Judicial economy dictates that some control must be given over to the Courts to regulate the elimination of obviously meritless cases, but that regulation must be carefully applied.

I often have discussion with friends about the criminal justice system and their complaint that “too many crooks and thugs seem to go free”. I explain to them a philosophy that many of them have trouble buying into. That philosophy is: the courts were not designed to punish the guilty, the courts and the justice system must, at all costs, protect the innocent. It is sometimes a tough philosophy. To watch a guilty person go free because of a legal technicality is simply not something that anyone accepts easily. Those legal safeguards, though, are not there to assure the punishment of the guilty person who may be able to take advantage of them, rather they are in place to protect the innocent person from being wrongfully punished.

Similarly, in the civil arena, lawsuits are not primarily intended to punish the defendant for wrongful or negligent conduct; with the exception, of course, of punitive damages. The civil justice system is in place to protect the rights of the injured victim; to allow an injured victim the right to be heard and to explain why the defendant’s conduct was at fault for his injuries. So, permitting lawsuits must be favored over extinguishing the rights of truly injured people.

Will there be abuse of the civil justice system at times by allowing a more liberal view toward favoring the rights of the victim? Absolutely; it is simply unavoidable. Much like allowing the guilty to go free in favor of a system that protects the innocent; the civil system must allow some abuse in order to carefully preserve the rights of the truly injured.

It is a trade off that is both worthy and just.

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