People make mistakes. That’s normal human behaviour. If employees do then their employer accepts liability. That’s a daily event and naturally includes our largest employer, the government.
In all of its multitude of hats the State is constantly paying out damages, even to crims in prison who have endured a wrongful act. No-one questions the appropriateness of these compensatory payments.
Yet there’s one glaring exception to this which in the interests of fairness needs to change. That’s when courtroom Judges make mistakes. Judges are human and thus fallible. They’re protected from being sued for their errors which is as it should be as they’re no different from other employees, but with one exception. That is, unlike every other activity their employer, the Justice Department, doesn’t meet the costs of their errors.
Recently the Supreme Court threw out the judgement in the Colin Craig-Jordan Williams libel action of a few years back, on the grounds the Judge made a blunder in the summing up to the Jury. The Judge has actually admitted that. Readers will recall that highly entertaining case which went on for many weeks.
It cost the litigants well over a million dollars plus a great deal of their time. Solely because of the Judge’s human error they’re effectively told they must now do it again.
Surely in such circumstances the Justice Department should be at least liable for their costs, just as it is if one of their employees in their diverse other activities and responsibilities makes a costly error. There is no justification for exempting Courts.
Of course if common sense prevails the respective litigants should let sleeping dogs lie. The various causes of action are now ancient history, they had a well publicised grievance airing and no purpose is served by doing it all over again.
Jordan Williams is a rational and practical fellow and I suspect would now leave it at that. But what of Craig? His behaviour over the years has been a source of much ridicule and humour. He would earn a rare public respect were he to issue a statement saying the matter is now at an end. We shall see.