Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Major league baseball players buy some justice for the rich
Yesterday's federal appeals court ruling that U.S. agents overstepped their authority in seizing evidence from a Bay Area laboratory appears absolutely correct. As Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in the 11-judge panel's decision, the government was not permitted to take the results of steroids testing of hundreds of people -- many of them prominent athletes -- when it enforced a warrant for results of tests on 10 Major League baseball players, according to the Reuters international news service. Among the athletes whose steroid use was exposed by the documentation was Alex Rodriguez, the New York Yankees third baseman who admitted using performance enhancing drugs after Sports Illustrated magazine said he was mentioned, Reuters said. The ruling means the lab evidence probably cannot be used if the government decides to prosecute the multimillionaire players for perjury or any other charges U.S. officials come up with, assuming the decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is upheld when the case is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, as expected. This is how justice is figured out in our system. But it doesn't happen like that for everybody. This is justice for the rich. The biggest problem for the multimillionaire players is going to be how to put the revelations back into the bottle. But ordinary folks charged with crimes simply don't have the same kind of experience with the judicial system. Rich ballplayers are not going to be arrested and thrown into jail while their case plays out in court over months and years, but ordinary people -- who don't have tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for bail -- probably will. Rich ballplayers will be defended by the best lawyers their ludicrously wealthy labor union can afford; ordinary folks will have to come up as money as they can get their hands on just to get an attorney to represent them. People need to get attorneys because most cases are not decided in the courtroom but in pretrial consultations with judges, where non-lawyers are not allowed. We have created a legal system that rewards the rich with unprecedented access and opportunity at the expense of lower middle-class and poor people. The courts have evolved from a search for truth to a battle of egos, and ordinary people -- and ordinary justice -- are the biggest losers.