Legal Ethics and Reform
Will an Archbishop Blessed with Great Fortitude Take on Missouri's Legal Reform Problem?
In April 2007, Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis made national headlines by resigning from the board of a Catholic hospital foundation that had invited a pro-choice entertainer, Sheryl Crow, to headline an event to help sick children. Burke is religious leader for about 500,000 in the greater St. Louis area. He is their chief teacher on issues of faith and morals. Earlier, in 2006, he had instructed them not to vote for pro-choice political candidates. This stand had earned him national attention. Politics is not child’s play and mistakes have consequences, sometimes grave consequences. Witness the millions of unborn children that have been destroyed in abortion clinics since judicial legalization occurred in 1973. All thoughtful people, whether pro-life or pro-choice, must agree that Raymond Burke is a man of great fortitude and a man possess of a finely tuned sense of right and wrong which has been shaped by the Councils of the Church, Papal Encyclicals, and the Doctors of the Church.
The St. Louis Archdiocese runs a annual fund raising drive to fund various worthwhile causes. These include such things as seminaries, food kitchens, retirement centers for aged religious, etc. Some of these funds pay the salaries of several lawyers who are available to represent indigent folks who have to go into civil court: an illegal immigrant on the verge of being deported, an indigent mother being evicted from her apt, a poor battered wife who needs a legal separation from her abusive husband, etc. These are difficult cases and these people need legal help but lack the funds to hire an attorney. If they were in criminal court the government would be required to furnish a taxpayer paid lawyer, but in civil proceedings everyone is obligated to provide their own attorney. Thus the need for Catholic Charities to pay for legal representation.
Of course, as pointed out elsewhere in this web site, any legal system which has so many flaws as the American system has to be considered immoral. So the faithful in St. Louis are faced with a grim reality, Catholic Charities is paying staff lawyers to perpetuate an immoral system. Of course there is a “catch 22" in this situation. On one hand, you have the instant problem of indigent people needing legal aid, but there is the equally repulsive reality that providing the money helps perpetuates an immoral system.
Perhaps Catholic Charities should spend a comparable amount of money lobbying the Missouri legislature to chance the legal system so that a person who can’t afford a lawyer is provided a taxpayer paid lawyer for his problems of a civil nature. Or even better, perhaps Catholic Charities should lobby for a new civil court system for those with money problems which provides for one taxpayer paid lawyer (or other professional such as a social worker) to investigate the facts on both sides of a case and present these facts to the judge for his decision. The latter suggestion would be preferable because the civil litigation system would be greatly streamlined. It would be faster, cheaper, and surly produce fairer results
Studies show that fully 95% of the American people lack the assets to properly fund civil litigation in the U.S. If Catholic Charities would push to implement such a streamlined system, where the costs in time and money of the adversary system might be avoided for 95% of the people, Missourians would be forever grateful.
Archbishop Burke is possessed of both the “guts” and moral sensitivity needed to take on this challenge. He is also possessed of 500,000 followers who could be very helpful lobbying the Missouri legislature for this change.
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