03 April 2017

The Troubled Court System Of India

India, like the United States, has a federal system based upon the English common law legal system. Both operated common law legal systems with mostly local lawyers for more than a century before gaining independence from the United Kingdom. The United States has had independent legal systems from the U.K. for 241 years; India's legal system has been independent for 72 years. 

Both countries endured a division of the country in between, although in the United States the feuding factions got back together after the Civil War, while in India, Pakistan remained separate and then had its own split between West Pakistan and East Pakistan.

Imagine that Colorado had the same number of lawyer and judges, proportionate to its population as India

India's population is roughly 1,200 million. The United States has a population of roughly 300 million. Both have about 1.2 million lawyers. The United States has roughly 32,000 judges at the state and federal levels combined. "The latest figures (as on 11 July 2016), as seen from the National Judicial Data Grid and Department of Justice data [in India], tell us that there are 16,438 judges at the subordinate judiciary level, 621 in high courts and 29 in the Supreme Court."

Both countries have more or less capitalist, mixed economies with enormous cities that participate in the global economy and have significant high technology, highly productive geographic centers that drive their economies. Both have states at quite different levels of development from each other with quite different regional cultures and demographics.

Colorado As India Statewide

The state would have about 9,000 lawyers instead of its current total closer to 36,000.

The Colorado Supreme Court (currently 7 judges) and Colorado Court of Appeals (currently with 22 judges) combined, would be replaced by three Colorado Supreme Court justices. 

There would be two U.S. District Court judges for the District of Colorado (currently with 6 judges, 9 magistrates and 6 senior judges) and one Bankruptcy Court judge for the District of Colorado (currently with 6 judges). There would be no 10th Circuit Court of Appeals (currently with 12 judges and 7 senior judges) and the federal trial courts would appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Colorado As India In Denver's State Trial Courts

There would be four judges in the Second Judicial District (i.e. Denver County) in the Denver District Court (currently with 23 judges and 5 magistrates), the Denver Juvenile Court (currently 3 judges and 4 magistrates) and the Denver Probate Court (currently 1 judge and 1 magistrate) combined. Three judge would serve in Denver District Court, one judge would assume all of the combined duties of the Denver Juvenile Court and Denver Probate Court.

There would be four judges in Denver County Court (currently with 17 judges and 15 magistrates).

Colorado As India In State Trial Courts Outside Denver

State trial courts outside Denver would be reduced in staffing proportionately. There would be a total of roughly 55 trial court judges split between district, county and municipal courts statewide with most judges serving multiple counties. There would be perhaps 30 District Court judges, 20 County Court judges, and 5 municipal court judges serving outside of Denver (with county court and municipal judges serving in multiple courts on a part-time basis). A median judicial district would have one district court judge and one county/municipal court judge.


How would this function?

Not well.

The case loads would be overwhelming.

To try even a decent fraction of the cases currently going to trial and contested hearings, trials and hearings would have to be much shorter. Court clerks would have to be more bold in handling default judgments, post-judgment process, and uncontested motions. The pressure to settle cases would be greater than the length of time needed to conclude cases would be longer.

Statutory deadlines in matters entitled to prompt hearings like evictions, claims to repossess personal property, and temporary restraining order hearings would be impossible to meet. Many criminal cases would have to be dismissed or plea bargained intensely to meet speedy trial deadlines.

India's court system absolutely shows this strain.

Courts swamped with far more pro se parties in divorces, foreclosures, and county court litigation would bog down the courts in categories of cases already struggling to manage with large volumes of pro se parties.

Ideally, the entire system would have to be redesigned to maximize the extent to which scarce judicial resources were devoted to the cases that needed those resources, while developing a system not involving legally trained judges or lawyers in cases where legal training wasn't as critical, along the lines of the historical justice of the peace system in much of the U.S., or perhaps involving law enforcement officials and pro se parties presenting cases informally to legally trained magistrates.

The truth is that even Colorado, while it enjoys far more lawyers and judges per capita than India, is itself has a somewhat understaffed judiciary.

India's official plan is to quadruple its number of judges to 60,000 or even to 70,000. It has more than enough qualified lawyers to fill those posts. The administrative costs would be a manageable share of state and federal budgets. And, if it did so, the result would be a dramatically better functioning legal system. Corruption would probably fall significantly. But, politicians in India, like those in Colorado, are reluctant to make such a bold change. Also India's political situation is even less healthy that ours.

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