Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Punishments…should be meted out only by the criminal justice system…

posted by Bill Arnett @ 1:20 PM Permalink

…From the NYT:
In the late summer of 1985, Kurt Parrott…was thrown from his motorcycle in Opelika, Ala. The buckle of his helmet failed, and he died when his bare head hit the pavement. Mr. Parrott’s mother sued the Italian company that made the helmet, and an Alabama court awarded her $1 million.

The company refused to pay. And last year, when lawyers for the Parrott family tried to collect in Italy, they were blocked by the Italian Supreme Court.

The court said that a peculiarity of American law — punitive damages — was so offensive to Italian notions of justice that it would not enforce the Alabama judgment.

Most of the rest of the world views the idea of punitive damages with alarm. As the Italian court explained, private lawsuits brought by injured people should have only one goal — compensation for a loss.
Allowing separate awards meant to punish the defendant, foreign courts say, is a terrible idea.

Punishments, they say, should be meted out only by the criminal justice system, with its elaborate due process protections and disinterested prosecutors. It is not fair, they add, to give plaintiffs a windfall beyond what they have lost.[…]

Some common-law countries do allow punitive damages, though in limited circumstances and modest amounts. In the United States, by contrast, enormous punitive awards are relatively common, although they are often reduced or eliminated on appeal.
I have long wondered why Americans hold themselves forth as having the finest legal system in the world, so this article is an eye-opener.

It is sad, and a good bit more than disgusting, that American Civil Courts are held in such low regard internationally. Now we have compounded that by adding mistrust of our criminal courts with bush's twisted and sick views of torture.

How many other countries have refused to prosecute so-called terrorists for fear that the evidence was tainted by the use of torture?

When allies turn their back to us and refuse to prosecute prisoners turned over by American authorities, well, we have lost any and all remaining credibility we formerly enjoyed.

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