April 4, 2002
Continues Ogletree, “Bringing the government into litigation will also generate a public debate on slavery and the role its legacy continues to play in our society. The opportunity to use expert witnesses and conduct extensive discovery, to get facts and documentation, makes the courtroom an ideal venue for this debate.”
Liberal blogger “Charles Dodgson” responds:
So Ogletree thinks that just about the entire experience of blacks in America is grist for assessing the damages. I guess he wants to be the first academic ever granted the power of subpoena to further his social research.It has to be said: to a certain kind of academic, everything looks like a lecture hall. And yet actual real-life courts have an actual real-life job to perform, with actual finite resources at their disposal. That job is: sorting out justice and injustice in the present day. Which living individuals will wait in line while Ogletree co-opts court time for his “full and deep conversation”? Who will ask them how they feel about it? Surely the heritage of slavery is one of the great vexed American issues. Just as surely, what Ogletree proposes is an abuse of the commons.
Civil courts do not exist to “generate public debate”. They exist to adjudicate disputes on narrowly considered factual situations, according to relevant law. In fact, they have rules of evidence which are designed to exclude facts which are not directly relevant to the legal issues at hand. This is not a process which lends itself to “full and deep conversation”. […] A full and deep conversation on slavery and its legacy might be a good thing, but a civil court is not the right venue.