Half a Million Lawyers in the USA
Ø 1) What does the title of the text imply?
“It was you, wasn’t it?” says the district attorney, pointing to the woman on the other side of the courtroom. “It was you who murdered your husband.”
“Yes!” says the woman, hiding her face in her hands. “Oh God, yes, it was me!”
“OK. Cut!” shouts the movie director. “One minute break, everyone.” He is pleased. He knows that his TV series will be a success. The great interest that Americans have in the law and the courts will make sure of that.
It is extraordinary, in fact, how important the law is in America’s national life. Indeed, the justices of the Supreme Court are some of the most powerful people in America. It is often they, rather than the politicians, who make the big decisions that will change people’s daily lives. It is the justices who decide that black children and white children should go to school together. It is they who decide whether criminals should be punished by death. Politicians, after all, can lose an election if they make unpopular decisions. Justices keep their job for life.
The nine justices of the Supreme Court are probably the most respected people in the U.S.A., but Americans do not think so highly of the less important lawyers. Perhaps this is because there are so many of them. One in every 450 Americans is a lawyer, and in Washington, D.C., the number is one in every sixty-four.
One reason for the large number of lawyers is that each state has different laws. In Alabama, for example, the school age is from seven to sixteen years old. In Pennsylvania, it is eight to seventeen. In addition to the different state laws, there are also federal laws, which everyone must obey.
Americans hurry to the courts of law to fight for their rights for all kinds of reasons. This can be a good thing. No employer can afford to be careless about safety. The workers might take him to court. No doctor can be careless with her patient. She will find herself in court, ordered to pay millions of dollars for her mistake.
Some people feel that things have gone too far. Take Mr. and Mrs. Zak, for example. One evening they offered scotch to a guest who then drove off in his car and crashed. The court decided that the Zaks had been wrong togive their guest scotch and allow him to drive away drunk. They were ordered to pay $72,500. It must have been the most expensive bottle of scotch the Zaks ever bought.
Ø 2) Find the definition of the word “attorney” in the dictionary.
Ø 3) Prove that it is often the justices, rather than the politicians, “who make the big decisions that will change people’s daily lives” in the USA.
Ø 1) Answer the questions:
a)Would you like to be a lawyer? Would you like to be a judge?
b)Have you ever been in court? What did you do there?
c)Have you ever been a member of a jury? Was it difficult?
Jerry Owens is a member of a jury. Now he is hearing a case that involves robbery and theft.
The accused man, the defendant, has a past criminal record and has served a term in prison. He is accused of holding up a bank as well as stealing jewelry from five homes in the area. The trial has lasted five days, but today seems to be the day to give a verdict of guilty or no guilty.
Jerry thinks that the evidence against the defendant is not very strong. He plans to vote “not guilty.”
Ø 2) Answer the questions:
a)Who is Jerry Owens?
b)Who has a past criminal record?
c)Why is today important?
d)What is the defendant accused of?
e)How does Jerry Owens plan to vote?
Trial by jury
Ø 1) What title might be good for this selection?
Ø 2) Could you comment on the phrase “Trial by jury may not be a perfect system of administering criminal justice”?
Trial by jury may not be a perfect system of administering criminal justice, but it is a great improvement over some earlier methods. In old England, under Saxon rule, cruel and barbaric methods were used to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. These procedures were known as “ordeal by fire” and “ordeal by water.” Fire was customarily used for nobility. Ordinary people were tried by water.
In one variety of “ordeal by fire,” the accused was forced to take three steps while grasping a red hot piece of iron in his or her bare hands. The hands were then bandaged and the defendant was judged on the degree of healing that took place in three days. A variation on this technique involved walking barefoot and blindfolded on irregularly spaced red-hot irons. God supposedly guided the feet of the innocent.
For “ordeal by water” the accused was bound with ropes and tossed into a deep body of water. Those who floated were guilty. A person who sank was presumed innocent and, hopefully, pulled from the water before drowning. This quaint practice was based on the notion that the water would reject the guilty and accept the innocent.
Our judicial system may have flaws, but it’s certainly preferable to the Saxon system!
Ø 3) Answer the questions:
a)What is “ordeal by fire”?
b)Who were the Saxons?
c)What layer of the population was fire used for?
d)What does the word “barbaric” mean?
e)What does the word “flaws” mean?