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Letter from Ronald Sokol to Daniel Meador, Saturday, July 21, 1979

Saturday, 21 July 1979

Dear Dan,

The photograph has come, and I am delighted! The “friendly observers”
you refer to in your letter merit something of a reprimand. The photo is
more than “all right.” It is an excellent likeness, and I am very very happy to have it. I was especially pleased with your thoughtfulness in inscribing
it and the aptness of your words which express my own feelings as well. I thank you for it!

The delay in my writing was due to my absence. I had a busy trip to the
U.S. to attend to the possible sale of the family business and to put my son
in camp in Wisconsin so that his fellow campers can coax him into speaking
the local tongue more trippingly. When I visited him about ten days ago, the
experiment was working well, and he was thriving in the North woods of Wisconsin
and asked whether he could return next year. He is still there and not due
back here until mid-August.
I was astonished that you thought my comments on the French legal system
merited being shown to others. I have always thought that somewhere along the
line about fifteen years from now I would have amassed sufficient information,
experience, and impressions to say something perhaps useful about the two let
systems. Your reaction to my observations raised the question for me of whether
I am not closer to that essay than I realized I was. I think I have answered
that question yes and reduced the period from 15 to 5 years.
In the past few months I have been ruminating on the truth-finding aspect
of the litigation process and the comparison between the French and U.S. appr
to this aspect. The judicial process in both systems uses the “correlation th
of truth. That is, the system supposes that the court’s version of the “facts
will correlate or correspond as closely as possible with what actually occurred.
Putting aside the issue of what constitutes a “fact” which raises other problems
not relevant to my present ruminations, I am struck by the radical difference
between the two systems in the evaluation of each as to how much effort and
resources ought to go into trying to find out “as closely as possible” the
correlation. The U.S. system puts far more effort into the attempt to ascertain
as closely as possible what actually happened, that is, what the facts were,
than does the French system. Our whole system of evidence, of cross-examination
of pre-trial discovery, of highly-trained attorneys, etcetera have no parallel
in the French system. I am constantly struck in the litigation I have under*
in the French courts at the fact that I can put anything into evidence and
that there is no standard of proof except the judge’s good sense. There
is really no standard for verifying or authenticating documents submitted
to the court, no cross-examination, no limits on what the lawyer can say or
put into his brief or into evidence. The procedure itself is unbelievably
informal. The formality occurs at the display level only, that is the lawyers
where robes and there is the usual paraphernalia of justice, but the actual
truth-determining process is about as unrigorous as you can imagine. The
recent grounding of the DC-10 made me wonder whether or not the rigor and
thoroughness of our investigation and our caution and precaution compared to
that of the rest of the world which was looking at the same airplane might
not reflect something deeper about our culture. I’m not sure what. Distrust
perhaps? Maybe nothing at all like that but simply better training in both
the sciences and in law. Yet all this obviously has a profound relationship
with the cost and delay of our legal system. The less effort society commi
in its dispute-resolving machinery, to trying to find out exactly what happens
the less costly the investment. Further evidence of the above observation is
that we also go to much greater lengths than the French in trying to find ou
what the law is as well. Our doctrine of stare decisis only partly explains
this because we go to great lengths to locate precedent (from other states,
example) that will not be controlling. Would I be correct in concluding from
your article on the English appellate judges that the British also commit le
resources to ascertaining what actually happened when a factual dispute exis
Well, the above is probably all a muddle to you. This is the first attempt
I have made to write it out, and I don’t know whether it w ill make any sens*
you or whether, if it does, the observation will strike you as being of any
I have taken on an associate who finished at Virginia in June of this y
and I am very pleased with him thus far. I still have hopes of getting to
Charlottesville for a visit. I hope you and your family are all well. I in
you w ill be glad to get back to teaching for awhile. Thank you again for the
photo and the inscription.

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