The United States court system has evolved in many ways since its inception. While there are many issues that courts and court administrators face in today’s society, the U. S. court system has improved immensely and can continue to improve in the future. Through the evaluation of the evolution of the United States court system’s handling of victim’s rights during court proceedings, one can better understand how the court system will deal with the future management of issues, as well as other trends that will occur in areas such as language interpretation services.
Historically, the United States court system functioned in a manner that is very different from the ways in which it functions today. One of the stark differences between the U. S. court system of yesterday and the U. S. court system of today was its general focus. Though the United States court systems began, during colonial times, to focus their punitive efforts in restoring the losses of victims of crimes, from the 1850’s to the early 1970’s, much of the focus of the United States court systems became creating punishments that scared criminals who committed crimes into becoming upright citizens (Derene, et al, 2007).
The United States court systems are based on a mixture of many cultural principles of justice, which influenced how punishments were handed down by the courts (Derene, et al, 2007). Many of the principles of the court system were based on Roman principles, which focused on the administration of public laws, laws that “dealt with the organization and administration of the Republic,” as well as private laws, which “addressed issues such as contracts; possession and other property rights; injuries to citizens; and the legal status of various persons, such as slaves, husbands, and wives (Derene, et al, 2007).
Using these principles along with other principles that were adopted by other companies, United States court systems based many of their judgments on the idea that restitution was owed to society, rather than the individuals who were wronged in a crime, which greatly influenced the ways in which criminals were punished by the courts (Derene, et al, 2007). Harsh punishments were often handed down to people who were not as familiar with the English language as well as the laws of the United States (Derene, et al, 2007).
Much of this changed with the Civil Rights Movement, which eventually paved the way for the Victims’ Rights Movement of the 1970’s, which brought to light the many injustices that were suffered by people who were already on the fringes of society (Derene, et al, 2007; Adelson, 2007). Many of the changes that occurred within the Victims’ Rights Movement occurred within the court system, where the structures of the court system was altered to better accommodate people who had to navigate the system (Adelson, 2007).
One of the first changes that occurred as a result of the Victims’ Right Movement was that there was an increase in the use of public advocates, whether they be public defenders, social workers, interpreters, etc. (Derene, et al, 2007; Kirby, et al, 2010). The public advocates began to play a wide range of roles within court system, such as ensuring that the rights of victims are upheld during court proceedings, as well as serving as interpreters for either witnesses or defendants who did not speak enough English to properly defend themselves (Derene, et al, 2007; Kirby, et al, 2010).
Another change that occurred as a result of the Victims’ Rights Movement was that specific victim groups, such as women, were viewed in a new light when it came to trying various types of crimes (Derene, et al, 2007). For example, most citizens, as well as law enforcement, held the belief that “common citizens could manage their own protection and believed that justice should be accomplished without expanding governmental assistance and monetary support (Derene, et al, 2007).
A renewed idea of what it meant to be a victim helped to facilitate a change in the ways in which victims were treated during trials, which included witness protection programs, counseling programs that allowed victims to assess their situation, as well as the option of testifying through video, which provided victims (who were either victims of rape or child victims) with the opportunity to address the court without the fear of confronting the people who wronged them (Derene, et al, 2007).
This was best accomplished through the case Payne v Tennessee, where the United States Supreme Courts acknowledged that“crime victims are not nameless/faceless non-players in [the] criminal justice system (National Crime Victim Law Institute, 2011). ” These principles have forever changed the system with which people are tried and sentenced in the United States court system. While there are still many issues that need to be addressed in the United States court system today, there is great prospect that these issues and many other problems will be addressed in the near future.
For example, while the United States court system has gone to great strides to accommodate the language needs of the many Hispanics that now live in the United States, other migrant groups still experience issues when it comes to having available language interpreters while navigating the court system (Kirby, et al, 2010). Through the expansion of interpreters who are fluent in multiple languages, the court systems can continue to ensure that the rights of people who have limited English proficiency are still protected under the Constitution (Kirby, et al, 2010).
Also, through the continued evaluation of victims’ rights, which has now evolved to consider the cases of those who are of a different sexual orientation, as well as those who exist in non-traditional families, the court systems can expand the ways in which they protect victims of crimes (Derene, et al, 2007).
In conclusion, the United States court system has evolved since its beginnings to become a system that not only acknowledges the rights of those who are wronged as well as those who are potentially tried and are not familiar enough with the English language to defend themselves.
Through laws and policies that were enacted during the Victims’ Rights Movement, more people are guaranteed protection while navigating through the United States court system. Through the evaluation of the evolution of the U. S. court system historically, one can better understand the system that exists today as well as the trends that may follow for the future.