Be careful of administrative hearings.  Two types of these hearings I’m familiar with are ALS hearings and CAR hearings.  ALS stands for Administrative License Suspension hearings and CAR stands for Child Abuse Registry Hearings.  Do not attend these hearings without competent counsel.  I have rarely felt that legal proceedings are stacked against the ordinary citizen, but when you are in front of an administrative law judge in the state of Georgia, you can expect to see your right to a thorough and fair hearing significantly challenged. The consequences of a loss at any such administrative hearing can be severe, and the burden of proof that the state must bear is only proof by a preponderance of the evidence.

Imagine the scales of justice, with both sides of the scale perfectly empty.  Then imagine a feather is placed on one side.  That side tilts the least bit and the case is won by whichever side dropped the feather. It has been my experience that the State, with the assistance of the administrative law judge, has very little  trouble producing evidence that wins the case by a preponderance of the evidence.  So, again, do not participate in these hearings without competent legal counsel.   You will get steamrolled if you do.

I have become wary of jury trials.  It seems that over the last couple of decades, Americans have collectively become a bunch of terribly ignorant, undereducated people.  I have noticed a complete degeneration of the ability of most Americans to assess information using an analytical thought process.  I personally believe that has to do with the degredation of our public educational system and the fact that expectations of academic achievement have been dumbed down to accommodate the lowest common denominator in our society.  In other words, excellence in academic achievement is not what it used to be because we are all compelled to accept poor performance as adequate so that we don’t hurt anyone’s feelings and so that underachievers can still perceive themselves as achievers.

I believe that the end result of this degradation of our educational system is that a majority of American people can no longer think anaytically and that has a devastating impact on our system of trial by jury.   When a jury is picked, the potential jurors always recite the platitudes…yes, I believe that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty..yes, I believe that guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But, actuallly applying those principles while analyzing the evidence and the law in their deliberations is another matter altogether.

When those jurors are presented with contradictory evidence of a detailed nature and when they are then instructed by the judge to consider that detailed evidence while applying it to the elements of complex criminal law statutes, those same jurors are simply not up to the task.  They do not know how to go about dissecting complex information and examining it critically.  So, they devolve into an emotional analysis of the evidence and the possilbe guilt of the defendant and are comfortable with themselves, believing they have given their best effort at analyzing all that was put before them.  But, they actually have failed miserably at acheiving any level of thoughtful, objective analysis of the evidence or the issues.  The problem is that they, the jurors, are too ignorant of their own limitations to recognize that they are unable to, and have failed to, indulge in thoughtful analysis.

There is a principle called the Dunning-Kruger effect.  It is the simple principle that ignorant people are too ignorant to know that they are ignorant, and, they, therefore, believe that they are capable when they seek to perform a given task. The fact of the matter is that they are failing miserably at their efforts, but they have no basis for making an objective assessment of their own efforts, so they, therefore, belive they are doing much better than they are.  It is called illusory superiority.

I personally believe that Americans generally, including trial jurors, suffer, in significant numbers, from illusory superiority.  Jurors, in particular, smugly believe they are working hard and successfully as they apply their brains while deliberating, but the sad truth is that they are simply incapable of a thorough, sifting analysis of complex information.  The end results of this deficiency are some bizarre outcomes in jury trials.  Just ask any seasoned litigator, prosecutor or defense counsel, and if they are truthful, you’ll find that most such litigators will tell you there is absolutely no method for predicting the outcome of jury deliberations.  We attorneys anticipate, in advance, the complete failure of a jury to reach a logical outcome.

So, if you can, do not trust your fate to a collection of middle Georgia citizens sitting in a jury box.  In a civil or a criminal case, you’re likely to be grievously disappointed with the result.

For those folks who want to know more about the Dunning-Kruger effect, let me give you the following quoted synopsis,

From the Wikipedia:

“The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled people make poor
decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the
metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes. The unskilled therefore suffer
from illusory superiority rating their own ability as above average, much
higher than it actually is……”

And, by the way….I’m not a politically correct sort of guy, so I really don’t care if I’ve offended someone with my opinions in this particular blog.

In the last decade or so, I’ve noticed that many more people are willing to lie about most anything more quickly than they used to. I’m not sure why this has happened, unless it is tied to the overall degeneration of our society and its loss of a moral foundation. I’m guessing that too many people attach too much significance to matters that mean a lot of nothing, like…who is most likely to win “American Idol”…instead of attending to matters that should be significant like…protecting and projecting personal honor, contributing to society, becoming better educated, establishing the family wealth, and such. In other words, I’m afraid that Americans have ceased doing the things that make people healthy physically, spiritually, and mentally and they’re wasting their lives on tripe and that is resulting in many lower quality individuals to whom being dishonest comes more easily.

All that having been said, go ahead and lie about anything you want to anyone you want, it doesn’t much matter to me….unless, you are lying to me in a personal capacity or in my professional capacity as your attorney. If you want to alter your reality by lying about it instead of actually adjusting it through your personal actions, that is your life-style choice. It is one that will most certainly bring disaster, but, hey, it’s your life to lead as you please. But, when you are seeking my help as an attorney, or the help of any other attorney for that matter, lying about anything is one of the dumbest things you can do.

An attorney is generally tasked with unravelling some very sticky situation you’ve gotten yourself into. The task is already difficult enough most times, but it is only made more difficult if you lie to your attorney about the facts. Ask yourself, how is your attorney supposed to affect your reality successfully for you, so as to acheive a positive outcome, when the reality which you are portraying through lies does not even exist? Common sense should dictate that it is impossible to alter a fictitous reality since any effort of the attorney exerted to modify that fictitious reality is bound to be misdirected or is bound to be applied to a situation which is substantially different from that which the attorney believes he or she is seeking to affect, thereby rendering your attorney’s efforts on your behalf ineffective.

All of the above seems logical enough when spelled out, but I can’t tell you how many clients have caused me to misdirect my energy and talent, and to waste their money, because I’ve been sent in the wrong direction by their lies. It makes no sense, but maybe this is just one more example of illusory superiority impacting the behavior of people. (For more on illusory superiority, see my blog on avoiding jury trials, if possible.) The people who lie to their attorney must think they are smarter than their attorney and those people must also think they are smarter than everyone else around them, like prosecutors and judges. But, the sad truth is that the people that liars seek to deceive are routinely much smarter than the liars and the liars’ efforts at distorting reality generally fail miserably.

You need to understand that your attorney can only be effective for you if he or she is given the truth. Consider the following as one probable outcome of lying to your attorney. If you feed your attorney a lie and your attorney then speaks that lie to another person while trying to achieve a desired result for you, if the other person discovers the lie, then your attorney has lost credibility and you have irrevocably damaged your attorney’s ability to achieve the result you desire.

But, enough! Carry away from this rambling blog a simple directive. Don’t lie to your attorney. He or she must keep your communications confidential so you have no reason to lie. Be direct and truthful with your attorney. That will serve you best.

Citizens of Georgia need to be aware that the fact a person is sitting behind a bench in the courtroom wearing a judge’s robe does not mean that person is a well qualified attorney.  Our judges, state and superior court is what I’m talking about, are elected by popular vote or, in some instances, appointed by the governor.  So, think about it, the person sitting as a judge on your case has won a popularity contest, i.e., has been elected, to serve as judge.  Or, the person sitting as a judge on your case has been appointed by the governor to serve as judge.  A person elected by the people of the community has just won that position because his or her face was on the most billboards in the area, nothing more.  His or her election to the position of judge has nothing to do with his or her qualification to serve as judge.

I have personally seen judges appointed by the governor who were definitely not the most qualified candidate for the judgeship when the pool of candidates was objectively considered.  The governor made his selection based on political considerations of one sort or another, it was not a selection based on the quality of the candidates.

So, you can have a judge in your case who has won a popularity contest or one who was appointed to the position for political reasons.  In neither case has a qualified person necessarily been placed behind the bench in judicial robes.  Sometimes the consequence can be horrible, absolutely irrational rulings in a case.

But, take heart.  Often, a candidate who is less than qualified to be a judge, once elected or appointed, can, in fact, become an excellent judge if he or she applies himself or herself  to learning the position and wielding their power with care and great discretion.  I have seen that dynamic at play and I’m happy to state that most of the time this is the end result.  I believe it is because most attorneys who aspire to a position of leadership, like that of judge, have good self esteem and are generally honorable people.  As such, they want to do a good job in the position they occupy.

But, don’t be too dismayed with your counsel if the judge in the case renders a decision that makes no sense whatsoever.  Attorneys practicing in court have to apply their trade in front of the judge who is assigned to the case and the quality of the outcome is often outside of the control of your counsel in spite of his or her best efforts.