Bookmarks: Legal Gridlock

Book by Thomas C. Fischer

Written by Maura Beth Pagano (reviewer)
September 13, 2012
School of Law faculty Thomas C. Fischer’s Legal Gridlock: A Critique of the American Legal System is a cautionary tale. Fischer warns readers that if change is not brought to this country’s courts, America as a whole likely to fall victim to legal gridlock. A congested legal system, Fischer explains, will thwart social and commercial progress. This sets up a potential major crisis for a nation where democracy and economic vigor are celebrated.

Legal Gridlock is not a read intended only for attorneys and law students. The author himself says his book is written for “the average reader who is concerned about the direction in which our legal and political system is headed.” Fischer’s intentions are in the right place, as law practitioners are no longer the only group paying close attention to what’s happening in U.S. courts. The dawn of the 24-hour news cycle and the omnipresence of social media and blogs have allowed the public to observe the legal system in ways like never before.

The problem with this, Fischer says, is that the media is providing a skewed view of what our legal system is really like. Of the way in which law is represented in broadcast news, he writes, “Even when media reports are fairly objective, they are often incomplete or contain misinformation.” Fischer worries about how the public might perceive legal proceedings when they aren’t aware of the scope of a case, but says, “Such is the nature of our sound-bite world.”

If the public is misinformed about the law, we can’t expect individual to be educated about how large of a role the legal system should play in their lives. Herein lies another problem Fischer discusses—the U.S. relies too heavily on law. Fischer points to nations in Europe and Asia where citizens enjoy a high degree of civility, but where the extent of the law is far less encompassing.

Fischer makes several suggestions for reducing this reliance. He advocates for streamlining our legal system through simplification and efficiency. Simplification, he says, would involve removing old and unenforced laws from the books and limiting the amount of appeals filed. Fischer believes efficiency “could be achieved through greater interconnectivity, computer use, standardization and outsourcing.”

In Legal Gridlock, Fischer’s passion is palpable. He wants change to happen and he offers tangible, easy-to-understand ways to make it happen. Not only does he promote a reformation of our legal system, he inspires his readers to seek change too.