In a way, litigation is the backbone of a civil society. The right to an impartial court, willing to hear out both sides, is what allows us to resolve disputes small and large without resorting to violence, or petty revenge. Formal court is much more dignified than, say, trial by combat.
Granted, every human society that’s every existed most likely developed some form of conflict resolution. And the notion of a third-party mediator is similarly common. But in tribal communities, or those with less equal forms of social order, it’s likely that mediator had absolute power to both decide a resolution, and to enforce it. A king’s word was law… and that’s hardly fair. Who’s gonna argue with the Big Cheese?
Today we expect our laws and lawmakers to adhere to a more democratic standard. Again, in theory.
In this regard, much of the world is indebted to England. After the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, the King (or Queen) of England subsequently wielded much less power. In the ensuing centuries, a more democratic and fair form of government arose, centered around an established parliament, and the introduction of civil courts. When the British empire later formed colonies around the world, their particular form of justice spread along with other British customs.
The drawback of civil courts, though, can be a tendency to abuse them. The lawsuit is a powerful tool for equality, but it can also be easily misused by those who are looking for unfair advantage. Massive corporations will sometimes use veritable armies of lawyers to impose their will on those less able to do so. And similarly (though on a smaller scale) some people will use the right to civil procedure as a route to a quick buck.
But what separates a frivolous suit from something more legitimate? That’s a question that’s plagued lawmakers and judges for centuries. In many cases, what might seem unreasonable is, on closer inspection, genuine grounds for a case. Just as often, the opposite is true. All we can do is hope our appointed officials are able to see the truth.
Not to say we won’t second-guess their decisions! When it comes to the cases presented here, we’ll let you be the judge.