What is the definition of assembly line justice?

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thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Assembly line justice refers to a system of justice where the process remains rigid and makes no considerations on a case by case basis. In such a system, the cases lack individuality and all cases brought before the court are handled in a similar manner. For instance, a certain type of crime will be prosecuted in a similar manner with regards to the amount of bail or fines that can be extended to the defendant. Thus, all defendants accused of a similar crime are freed on the same amount of bail. The judge will set the bail as recommended for such crimes without considering the different variables presented by individual defendants. Among such variables would include the threat of the defendant as a flight risk and their ability to raise the bail. Thus, in most cases, poor defendants suffer since they are unable to raise the bail and because their economic status was not considered or they had no competent lawyer at their bail hearing. The situation perpetuated by the assembly line system is even worse for poor defendants who are later found innocent. The defendant would likely suffer social and economic effects of being held awaiting their trial because they were unable to raise bail. In other instances, the defendant, regardless of economic status, would enter a plea of no contest in order to get the conviction and mitigate the impacts of the case.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Assembly line justice is not really a technical term.  Instead, it is a pejorative term that people use when they think that the courts are not really giving defendants a fair hearing.  To relate it to previous questions of yours, it is what an advocate of the due process model would say to criticize the court system.

Assembly line justice is a system in which the defendant's rights are not rigorously protected.  It is a system where defendants get rushed through the system as quickly as they can be.  They do not get to really consult with attorneys, build a defense, etc.  They might meet their attorney for the first time when they get to court for their trial.

Overall, then, assembly line justice is a term that describes a system that does not (in some people's minds) pay enough attention to the rights of the accused and instead tries to process them through their trials and find them guilty as quickly as possible.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It probably depends who you ask, but I would define it as a court system that overwhelmingly uses plea bargains as a means of settling cases, so that the time and expense of a trial is avoided, some measure of punitive sentencing can be guaranteed, and so a system can process many, many more cases than it would ordinarily be able to.  Cases, in other words, receive only superficial attention.

Owing largely to the huge number of drug cases now before US courts, something we have only witnessed during the Prohibition Era and the last forty years of the Drug War, many people would argue the US justice system has devolved into assembly line justice, in the plea bargain fashion, and is unrecognizable in the modern day.

Besides being faster and cheaper, it also saves the witnesses from having to testify, which is often for the best.

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