COMMENTARY

Mark Morris | Thanks to hard work, courts work

Updated: 2012-10-23T04:30:30Z

By MARK MORRIS

The Kansas City Star

Does any part of government really work?

Well, yes. Please consider the courts.

Though the Republicans and Democrats couldn’t agree on pizza toppings, our courts turn on the lights every morning and get to work.

Juries must be selected, criminal cases heard and property disputes adjudicated.

True enough, the courts can be slow, secretive, chummy, expensive, obtuse and wrongheaded. Despite all that, they resolve disputes every day, rather than posturing for style points by perpetuating them. Can the other leaders of our body politic make that claim with a straight face?

A poll by DRI, an organization that represents civil defense lawyers and in-house counsel, determined that 58 percent of Americans expressed confidence in court decisions.

That remaining 42 percent is a troubling figure. But for a 58 percent approval rating, Congress would agree to anchovies and peanut butter toppings on a whole wheat crust stuffed with Limburger cheese.

The need to have a dependable forum for resolving disputes amid the chaos came home to me when a friend from my undergraduate years at William Jewell College emailed.

Deborah Gillespie Mitchell, a lawyer and part-time municipal judge in Sedalia, announced that she was taking a year’s leave of absence from the bench and her practice to work on “rule of law” issues in Afghanistan with judges, lawyers, police and prosecutors there.

What she has found are people who thirst for a more civil way to resolve disputes and promote respect for property and people. One of the first programs she attended was a seminar on gender justice issues attended by 18 Afghan lawyers, both men and women.

More recently she has worked with police officers who, like cops everywhere, wonder why they were spending so much time fussing with the rights of defendants rather than those of crime victims.

And a regular theme in the written updates she provides for her friends back home is her concern for the safety of those Afghans who have decided to work for a more just and equitable legal system.

Still, she is seeing progress.

“I hope that Afghanistan can continue to foster a reliance on the law for justice so that the people can depend on justice,” she wrote last week.

Helping Afghanistan build a more effective, efficient and transparent legal system is noble and grand work. It will happen only when people of good will turn on the lights in the morning and get to work.

I can’t think of a better person to help with that effort than a lawyer and part-time municipal judge from outstate Missouri who knows that confidence in the justice system is built on steady progress every day.

To reach Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to mmorris@kcstar.com.

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