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In the American Civil Judicial system. justice is“ In . by Jonathan Harr. there are several barriers that impede this search for justice, Through authority, groupthink, cognitive dissonance, and bias: these barriers constantly challenge plaintiff’s attorney Jan Schlictmann. The barrier of authority works against Schlictmann at several points in the case. During the depositions, workers from John J, Riley Tannery and W. R. Grace deny any knowledge of chemicals being dumped on the property of either company. Al Love, a worker from Grace, later confesses that he saw chemicals being dumped every day on the grounds behind the building.
The workers had lied to cover up the crimes of their employers and to prevent themselves from being fired. In dorng so, however, they risk imprisonment for treason. This shows the great amount of authority their employers had over them. This authority causes a hindrance for Schlictmann in his attempt to find evidence against the companies. Later. Schlictmann himself falls victim to authority, and it causes severe problems for him and his team, Charlie Nesson’s arrival at Schlictmann, Conway, and Crowley lifts everyone’s spirits and gets everyone looking forward to a huge verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, He is well known and respected.
so everyone in the team is behind him. If Schlictmann would not have had this influence, he may have settled earlier in the case, or may have limited his spending on the trial. Even Skinner recognized Nesson’s authority, realizing after seeing Nesson that the case could be worth an “astronomical” amount of money.
Authority works in Schlictmann’s favor when defense attorney William Cheeseman challenges Schlictmann’s case with a Rule 11 motion, When Cheeseman attempts to put Schlictmann on the stand, he refuses, and asks Judge Skinner to perform the questioning. The Judge consents, and out of respect ior Skinner‘s authority, so does Cheeseman, This instance actually helps Schlictmann to defeat the Rule 11 motion and makes Cheeseman look foolish.
Groupthink is another barrier that worked against Schlictmann and his team. Nesson’s predictions of a “monstrous” verdict caused groupthink among the team of lawyers. The only dissenter was Conway. who called their settlement proposal “crazy” and “ridiculous”. Schlictmann. displaying groupthink, responded by saying “You‘re being negative, Kevin”. Everyone became excited and lost sight of the real purpose of the case the children. They instead looked to use the case as a landmark case, making an example of the companies and making themselves rich and famous. Groupthink in the jury hurt Schlictmann’s case more than the problem in his own group. Jean Coulsey, a juror who was sympathetic to the plaintiffs, relied on groupthink, believing, “it would only take a short while to find both Grace and Beatrice liable”. This did not happen, however, as the six jurors were divided on many issues and had a difficult time answering the questions given to them, When William Vogel, the foreman, professed to the rest of the jury that he would need to enter the hospital for heart surgery, the jury began working as a team to come to a verdict. Groupthink took over the jury deliberations at this point, and after nearly two weeks With no success, they suddenly began to agree. The most prominent instance of groupthink is in their agreement on the final question, regarding the date the pollution became due to Grace’s negligence. They did not understand Robert Fox’s reasoning for his answer, but all accepted it rather than go to the judge Without a verdict. This arbitrary date they offered, however, caused major difficulties for Schlictmann, because three of the children had become ill before that date, and this would exclude their families from the suit. Throughout this case, barriers to legal knowledge affect all parties on both sides of the case. We have found, however, another veiy striking instance of these barriers. As readers, we felt bias against the defendants and defense attorneys, and experienced cognitive dissonance when we saw Skinner treating Schlictmann so unfairly, and while writing this paper and looking at the injustices these barriers can cause.
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