5 Idiosyncrasies of US Law
US law is unique when compared to many other legal systems around the world. This fact is mostly attributed to some very defining precedents that have been made by the courts since the country’s founding. Below are five things that the US does that many other legal systems do not.
The US legal system is described as adversarial. This means that the system does not seek the truth. Instead, it looks at who is more right than the other. When evidence is presented, it’s chosen based on how strong it will make the case. Additionally, defendants are rarely allowed to testify in court, which prevents them from being cross-examined. They opt for self-preservation instead of potentially bringing the whole truth of a case to light.
Class actions and torts are commonly referred to as second-order cases. While most other countries dismiss these types of cases in short order, the US entertains them, making it very different from many other countries around the world. Class actions happen when a group of people with similar issues with a product or company sue the defendant as a group. These types of cases have been very lucrative in the past and still occasionally are, though they’re usually better for the law firms representing the group than for the individuals in the group.
Another thing that sets the US apart from other countries in the world is the education necessary to get a law degree. Those wishing to study law cannot jump right into a law program. They have to get another degree before taking the LSAT, and spend another 3 years at an accredited school, after which they can get a Juris Doctor degree. Then, they must pass the bar exam and be admitted to the bar to practice law. Most states only allow those who have passed the bar in that state to practice law in that state. Once you pass the bar, you can practice in any field you want.
Basis of Guilt
One of the main tenants in criminal cases is that the defendant must be proven to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to be convicted. The prosecution has the burden to prove to the judge or jury that the defendant committed the crime. If they can’t, the person walks free. While this makes it harder for innocent people to be convicted wrongfully, it also means that some people guilty of heinous crimes walk free as well. Should new evidence come to light later that proves the defendants’ guilt, the court can’t re-try the case because of double jeopardy.
Past cases set a variety of precedents that limit what evidence is admissible in courts against criminal defendants. Documents, testimony and tangible evidence are generally admissible, though if evidence is gathered via illegal methods, it’s inadmissible, meaning that it cannot be used. Because of this, criminal cases are generally more dependent on the skills of the lawyer rather than justice itself.