Supreme Court Justice Admits That Tech Cases Are Tough

from the problematic dept

We’ve had plenty of discussions about whether it causes problems that judges don’t understand the technology they’re making decisions about. Some people have suggested special “tech courts” with legal experts who also have a strong understanding of technology, but others think part of what’s “good” about our court system is that the decisions are made by generalists who understand the law. Now, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is admitting that technology cases are particularly difficult to deal with, but doesn’t necessarily think the Supreme Court should hire subject matter experts to help out on certain cases. He does think the issue requires more investigation however.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Supreme Court Justice Admits That Tech Cases Are Tough”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Beck says:

No Subject Given

Whereas judges and juries are generalists, lawyers are specialists. A good lawyer (oxymoron?) should be able to explain technical details in a manner that makes the issues understandable for the judge and jury. A good lawyer for the opposition should be able to know if the other lawyer’s explanation is correct.

A top-notch lawyer is able to spin, twist, and obfuscate complicated issues in such a manner that the judge thinks he has an unbiased understanding of the issue. After all, isn’t that what lawyers are supposed to do?

Anonymous Coward says:

reduction to bad analogies...

*EVERY* time I hear a lawyer talk about technology and crime, the result has been nothing but bad anolgies that don’t work.

Sure, there are always the basic motivations for individual actions that come into play and those are pretty much universal matter what the situation, but there are also a lot of technical details that get glossed over as though they were not important.

The reality of computer forensics does not have a physical world analoug… and I personally feel the forensic computer investigators should be heavily schooled and carefully licenses. Allowing joe-bob from the force to be a computer forensic “expert” because he took a class at the local community college and has to have a desk job because he got shot while on patrol is *NOT* a good idea.

ne0phyt3 says:

reminds me of a bullet-proof vest

Breyer is right on this one.

Changing our reliance from generalists to specialists would change the foundation on which our system of jurisprudence is based. Doesn’t the proposition that our system of justice needs to depend on experts who are more capable of rendering judgement on complex technical issues presuppose that the court system must necessarily be infallible? If that’s true, what need have we then, for the process of judicial review?

IMHO, this issue comes down to the following question: would you have a knucklehead make a stupid decision that can be repealed by a more informed decision maker or do you prefer to put all your trust for all of time into the hands of a designated “expert” whose credentials are beyond challenge?

If you say ‘expert’, my next quesiton is, who gets to decide who she’ll be?

LittleW0lf says:

Re: reminds me of a bullet-proof vest

If I understand what you are saying, I absolutely agree with you ne0phyt3 (as if that means anything, since I am apparently a know-nothing hick with no intelligence who, despite my continued persistance that the system definately is flawed, is an apologist for the judicial system and the US government…)

While I think the judges should take the time to familiarize themselves with the issues during the case so that they don’t blindly make decisions, I am not sure we really want truely informed judges, especially at the Supreme Court level, since the question comes up as to who educated them. What happens if Microsoft or SCO, or the RIAA is the only party allowed to educate them, or if out of necessity or lack of time they choose to be educated by these companies instead of opening their minds and allowing many different points of view. Would their education get in the way of effectively doing their job? Would their education introduce biases or questionable facts into their judgements.

People with closed minds and hasty opinions are far more dangerous than people with open minds about the issues, who are willing to sit down and learn the facts of the case at hand instead of blindly making decisions (ok, so maybe I haven’t done this with the RIAA, I still hate their guts, and there is little anyone can do to change that…)

Likewise, what if a judge used Linux, perscribed to the Linux mindset, and then suddenly found themselves weighing the facts in an appeal of the case between SCO and IBM? Would they be able to bring impartiality to the table, or even worse, would any vote they made be viewed as impartial, even if they were trying to do so. The beauty of the current supreme court system is that each judge has different backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses, and together they use this to decide upon appeals by previous lower courts, who may have more expert testimony.

If you say ‘expert’, my next quesiton is, who gets to decide who she’ll be?

Right now, the only thing required is that they show that they have enough competence (such as certification, training, etc.) to the court. I’ve seen testimony (especially in a friend’s case,) where the expert had all the required documents to show they were an expert, but still didn’t know what TCP/IP was or how it worked, or how a DoS attack worked, even though they were supposidly an expert on those things. The case was a computer hacking charge, and unfortunately, my friend decided pleeding guilty was the only outcome, because of some really stupid decisions he made (such as not verifying that he had permission to hack the machine even though a co-worker, who later in court lied about it, had given him permission.)

I wish there was more judicial review in some cases, because in both of the above cases (a bad expert and a lying witness,) a little investigation would have determined that the expert was not fit to be an expert, and the lying witness would be in jail for purjury (if they could prove that he was lying.)

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...