Judges in the Circuit Court of Cook County have great difficulty understanding how to interact with very intelligent, overly enthusiastic, self-made “legal experts”, activists, and pro se litigants. They tend to make irrational knee-jerk assumptions about such litigants and order knee-jerk fitness exams will nilly, and often illegally, without basis. Perhaps some judges should be charged with practicing medicine without a license.
They are very arrogant and end up being quite unfair due to their confirmatory bias. Confirmatory bias is when a person has preconceived ideas that taint their interaction with the person. In this case their ego will not allow them to acknowledge a non-attorney quoting cases or statutes which they either are not aware of or do not understand. They fail to acknowledge to themselves that they are NOT omnipotent repositories of all law, that they are ignorant of much law and rely on the attorneys to educate them on areas where they are weak through motions quoting case law. This is why they “defend” their egos and arrogance with “shoot-from-the-hip” irrational and unconstitutional rulings in fits of unconscious emotion. They unconsciously, through arrogance, ignorance, and inexperience, selectively listen to and absorb only misinterpreted facts and unverified hearsay that support this bias. This is the nature of the beast called confirmatory bias. Once a judge recognizes and understands this, he is better able to keep it in check.
MY RECOMMENDATION TO THE JUDGES IS TO BACK OFF, TAKE A DEEP BREATH, AND QUESTION WHETHER HE REALLY UNDERSTANDS THE ISSUES OF THE CASE OR ARE SUBJECT TO EMOTION AND CONFIRMATORY BIAS WHEN CONFRONTED WITH A VERBOSE, EMOTIONAL, INTELLECTUAL, OVERLY ENTHUSIASTIC DEFENDANT. MAYBE HE HAS SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO SAY BUT THE JUDGE CAN’T SEE THE FOREST AMONG ALL THE TREES THE DEFENDANT IS POINTING OUT. IT IS THE JUDGE’S JOB AS A JUDGE TO TAKE CONTROL OF AND CLARIFY THIS EXCEEDINGLY (TO THE JUDGE) ANNOYING SITUATION.
There is a great mismatch between the style of judges/attorneys and physicians. Judges/attorneys are taught to narrow the issues and make statements using the least words. Decisions are based on as few issues as possible. Physicians are taught to cover every issue (don’t miss a possible diagnosis in their differential and see the global health of the person). Self-taught legal experts tend to have difficulty with prioritizing issues and consider everything exceedingly relevant. When physicians are wronged they tend to mix together the two issues of criminal law and civil law. In a criminal case they will try to discuss every irrelevent but connected issue so, as they perceive, the “court” will understand motive and circumstance. They are not aware that the “court” doesn’t care about motive and circumstance in all its details but just wants to limit the testimony and discovery to issues concerning elements of a crime. They are not aware that criminal courts are not the place to litigate torts or air grievances.
Judges/attorneys falsely believe that every pro se litigant is a rambling, irrational, incoherent nut. Therefore, they don’t even try to listen to or read the pleadings of a pro se physician or self-taught, ragged, and, to the uninformed and unwilling to listen, seemingly confused “legal expert” no matter how factual and accurate their statements and arguments may be, hidden among the chaffe. It is simply too much for their inflated egos to handle. Instead through confirmatory bias the judge will immediately order a fitness exam and ignore the defendant.
Judges simply do not comprehend the fact that many defendants are “normal” but on the fringe in terms of extremely adamant positions on social and civil rights issues. For example: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Ghandhi, anti-war protesters, civil rights activists are not all mentally ill. They are just determined, passionate, and adamant. Failure to accommodate these people in the courts, treating them like raving maniacs, harassing them and defaming them is a great injustice. The courts should have RESPECT and TOLERANCE for defendants with extreme and adamant social viewpoints.
Fitness for trial has a very low bar. All that is needed is an understanding of the players (what is a judge, jury, etc., and what do they do), the charge, the possible sentences, and the consequences of conviction, as well as an ability to interact with his attorney or tell the story and answer questions in some meaningful but minimal fashion. The defendant can be florridly psychotic, but if he meets these criteria he is legally “fit” although mentally ill. A full mental health evaluation is not necessary to make this basic determination regarding fitness.
In fact it is a gross waste of resources to constantly refer defendants who are clearly fit to forensic clinical services (a department with notoriously incompetent and arrogant psychiatrists who blanketly deny even the defendants’s request to tape record or write down the interview on paper, which denies the defendant a record of the interview to have another psychiatrist of his choosing review for accuracy of the diagnosis – even the Supreme Court has implied through dicta that it is not unreasonable to record the interview – and professional psychiatric organization ethical rules do not bar such a recording).
For the judges to constantly defer to the Director of Forensic Clinical Services in Cook County’s Dr. Markos’ innane rule barring any recording and other psychiatrist’s self-serving (to prevent proof of their malpractice, which shouldn’t be a concern as they have total immunity from malpractice torts) rule of not even allowing note-taking by the defendant is obscene in my view and firmly denies the write to confrontation when information from the interview is used against a person regarding sanity.
I recommend that judges when faced with a verbose, overly intense and emotional intellect in a defendant, especially a physician, should satisfy their curiosity about defendant’s fitness by asking some simple question and making the following statement to inform the person that courts are apples compared to the oranges in the practice of medicine (or other professional field) in the way they approach issues.
“I am going to give you some basic instruction about courtroom procedure and how attorneys and judges approach the practice of law to make your hearings run smoothly. I am not here to solve your personal issues regarding retaliation against you or harassment of you by rightful or wrongful conduct of others against you. The purpose of this court is to decide if you committed a crime. A crime is defined by elements. For example with the crime of trespass the State only has to prove you were told to leave a place and you refused to leave. Some crimes require that the element called intent also be proven such as in the crime of criminal contempt. Any arguments between you and the owner of the place on a trespass charge are irrelevant to the determination of you innocence or guilt. They may however later be introduced at the sentencing hearing if you are found guilty as mitigating or aggravating factors. For the same reason, this court will find irrelevant and not allow the introduction at trial of any factors that occurred before or after this incident of an alleged crime. The issues in criminal court are narrowed to the elements of the crime and I will not allow this court’s time to be wasted or the court to be distracted by irrelevant materials. Many pro se defendants have difficulty understanding the concept of relevance, and the concept of elements of a crime. Please think about these issues carefully and how your defenses will address them when you present evidence or witness testimony. The court does recognize that under unusual circumstances factors that may superficially seem irrelevant may be actually relevant. Therefore, for purposes of efficiency and judicial economy, I ask both sides to put these issues in writing in a motion for leave to present them at trial.”
This would be a start in ending the war between pro se litigants who are not nuts (physicians, self taught “legal experts”, etc.) and moving cases along more efficiently and rationally. Careful thought by the judges about the above issues may reduce bias and allow cases to proceed more efficiently and smoothly.
It is my hope that this web site and the companion sites:
will be used both by judges/attorneys and the public (particularly pro se community) to reduce tempers, calm nerves, bring understanding, encourage justice, and move cases along more efficiently and less traumatically for all involved.