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Letter from Ronald Sokol to Daniel Meador, Saturday, January 27, 1979

Dear Dan,

I very much enjoyed your letter as it had been so long,
or at least seemed so long, since I had any word of you at all.
The closing out of all I hope for the recovery of at least some
of your sight is a cruel blow. I shall say no more. I have
thought of you often in the past six or seven months as I knew
the operation was scheduled.

The thought that you almost got here last Fall and are
still keeping in mind the invitation cheers me up.  We would
love to have you whenever you care to come. I hope that you
will come at some time when you would like a rest and stay
at least a week so that we can talk at a more  leisurely pace
rather than sandwiching a short trip in-between a longer one,
although we would welcome you and Jan with great pleasure
either way.

I would very much like a reprint of your Georgetown article
if you have one to spare. I have just finished a very quick
reading of the long piece in the June Harv. L. Rev. by Hellman
on the Business of the Sup. Ct. He refers to your book with
Carrington & Rosenburg (sp.? ) that I remember you were working
on but have not seen. I thought the piece was well done although
I no longer follow closely the work of the Court I have, however,
devoted some thought to comparative ways of training judges and
the bar and the overall results of the US system compared to the
French. The French system of training judges looks good on paper.
There is a symmetry and logic that appeals to our eternal year[ning?]
for these things that Holmes alluded to, but the result is ill[?]
as Holmes correctly pointed out. There is a close analysis, I
think, between the French judiciary and the American consultant.
They are both civil servants fitting into a preset hierarchy con-
cerned with promotion or rather doing nothing to impede the pro-
motion that normally comes with time, statistics, and job loca[tion.?]
I have had judges here accelerate a case and decide it when no[?]
is ready so that they could increase their caseload for quarte[?]
statistical purposes which they must send on to the Ministry of
Justice. I suppose this kind of thing is inevitable when you,
a civil service type of organization. Justice also suffers here
severely from the fact that the bar is appallingly bad. I supp[ose]
it is bad in the U.S. too. As I recall the Commonwealth of
Virginia was represented by Reno Harp whom I suppose was not
entirely atypical of the practicing bar. What differs to the
U.S. is that there exists a segment of the bar that is highly
competent and sets an example or a tone for the profession. The
equivalent does not exist here, and the work of the judges suffer
accordingly. The bar really has no notion of how to prepare a
case for litigation, astonishing as that assertion must sound,
particularly when that is essentially all the bar does here. This
in turn is partly the result of the fact that the brightest people
do not go into law here and that there really exists no law school
in the American sense and that there is not an easy movement betwe[een]
the teaching profession, practitioners, government lawyers, and
company counsel. A French law school more closely resembles an
undergraduate major in political science than what we consider the
study of law. The problem is also made more complicated by the
splintered organization of the profession. What is curious, though, to my
to my way of thinking, is that although both judges and lawyers la[ck?]
the professional competence that exists in the U.S. and the difference
is significant, on the balance I am not certain whether the public
is better off under the U.S. system or the French system. I think
that probably for the bulk of litigation the French system may have
the edge as the better one . I conclude this because it has two vir-
tues that I think probably should weigh quite heavily in any assess-
ment of the justice of a system. By U.S. standards it is both cheap
and quick. A third virtue found in the US as well, but not found
in most countries is that it is honest. A system that is honest,
inexpensive, and rapid has so much going for it just from these
three points that it would be exceedingly difficult for any other
system to be assessed as the better. When I think that I have a client
who spent close to 30,000. dollars just to get a temporary restrain[ing?]
order in the Calif. courts and than the equivalent here would cost
about 1000 to 1200 dollars, I wonder if there is not a lot to be said
for simplifying the system. As for the results under the French
system from a legal point of view, they do not appear to differ
significantly from the results that would obtain if you used a system
of flipping a coin which would be even cheaper but would lack the
trappings of justice. (The trappings of French justice are almost as
elaborate as the trimmings of a French meal.) This estimate may be
a bit severe but not much.

Of course I still want a photograph, although not if it’s going
to set up a block to your writing. Why don’t you simply have Jan
pick something out and send it along? A man can’t have lived a half
century and not have some photographs around. 1 would prefer some-
thing smaller than a 1ifesize print and larger than a snapshot.
Hardy’s and Justice Black’s seem to run about 8 by 10 inches and
that seems to be a good size. Incidentally, you now share a link
with Hiyazawa Kenji, a Japanese poet, as we had a second child about six months ago named after you and the poet; Daniel Kenji Sokol who
already shows great promise. Have run out of paper.  As ever, Ron [signature]

“… I have, however, devoted some thought to comparative ways of
training judges and the bar and the overall results of the US system
compared to the French. The French system of training judges looks good
on paper. There is a symmetry and logic that appeals to our eternal
yearning for these things that Holmes alluded to, but the result is
illusion, as Holmes correctly pointed out. There is a close analogy, I
think, between the French judiciary and the American consular corps. They
are both civil servants fitting into a preset hierarchy concerned with
promotion or rather doing nothing to impede the promotion that normally
comes with time, statistics, and job location. I have had judges here
accelerate a case and decide it when nothing is ready so that they could
increase their caseload for quarterly statistical purposes which they must
send on to the Ministry of Justice. I suppose this kind of thing is inevitable
when you have a civil service type of organization. Justice also
suffers here severely from the fact that the bar is appallingly bad. I
suppose it is bad in the U. S. too…What differs in the U. S. is that
there exists a segment of the bar that is highly competent and sets an
example or a tone for the profession. The equivalent does not exist here,
and the work of the judges suffers accordingly. The bar really has no
notion of how to prepare a case for litigation, astonishing as that assertion
must sound, particularly when that is essentially all the bar does here.
This in turn is partly the result of the fact that the brightest people do
not go into law here and that there really exist no law schools in the
American sense and that there is not an easy movement between the teaching
profession, practitioners, government lawyers, and company counsel. A
French law school more closely resembles an under-graduate major in political
science than what we consider the study of law. The problem is also made
more complicated by the splintered organization of the profession. What is
curious, though, to my way of thinking, is that although both judges and
lawyers lack the professional competence that exists in the U. S. and the
difference is significant, on the balance I am not certain whether the public
is better off under the U. S. system or the French system. I think that
probably for the bulk of litigation the French system may have the edge as
the better one. I conclude this because it has two virtues that I think
probably should weigh quite heavily in any assessment of the justice of a
system. By US standards it is both cheap and quick. A third virtue, found
in the U.S as well, but not found in most countries is that it is honest. A
system that is honest, inexpensive, and rapid has so much going for it just
from those three points that it would be exceedingly difficult for any other
system to be assessed as better. When I think that I have a client who spent
close to 30,000 dollars just to get a temporary restraining order in the
Calif, courts and that the equivalent here would cost about 1000 to 1200
dollars, I wonder if there is not a lot to be said for simplifying the system.
As for the results under the French system from a legal point of view,
they do not appear to differ too significantly from the results that would
obtain if you used a system of flipping a coin which would be even cheaper
but would lack the trappings of justice. (The trappings of French justice
are almost as elaborate as the trimmings of a French meal.) This estimate
may be a bit severe but not much.”

The above is taken from a letter dated 27 January 1979 from Ronald
P. Sokol to Daniel J. Meador, Assistant Attorney General, U. S. Department of Justice.

 

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