Standards for deciding whether or not jurists have done their job well and fairly are matters to be judged under the applicable rules of due process, which may be determined as outlined in this previous post. Despite knowing the applicable due process standard in particular cases, claimants or defendants are often dissatisfied with outcomes of judicial proceedings, for various reasons. Whether or not a rehearing, appeal, or some other adjustment process is available will vary in different circumstances under voluntary law. There are different ways to ensure judicial quality, and appeal is not necessarily the best. Certainly appeal is not the most efficient conceivable process. In the ideal case, all competently-rendered and just judgments would be enforced without unnecessary delay. Mechanisms for delaying enforcement, challenging judgments, and if necessary nullifying or modifying them should ideally be selectively available only in cases where there is a high risk of injustice. Where the risk of injustice is low, delays and challenges serve little purpose. If the marketplace is robust, inefficient administration of justice will successfully be avoided.
In statist systems, particularly common law systems recognizing binding judicial precedent, appeals are the primary mechanism for reversals of judgments. Such appeals function to maintain consistency between rulings of lower courts. The threat of being overruled on appeal prevents renegade courts from ruling contrary to the will of the highest court. Correcting injustice in particular cases is a secondary effect, and the dissatisfaction of litigants is merely a motive force, from the courts’ perspective. The statist court enjoys a monopoly on the provision of judicial services, which lessens its motives for caring about whether justice is done in particular cases. Instead, the statist court must be primarily concerned with avoiding giving offense to politically powerful players. Such powerful players might threaten funding for the court, instigate impeachment proceedings against judges, or (where judges are elected) fund the political campaigns of competing judges, for example. Hierarchical appeals courts exist for the benefit of the judicial system, and not for the benefit of litigants.
The motivation and operation of appeal is completely different in voluntary law. Judicial precedent does not exist. Voluntary law fills the gap left by the loss of judicial precedent, by empowering each person, and only each person, to define applicable law. Uniformity is maintained by the market forces that control the content of voluntary laws; that is, by action of individual choices made by each voluntary law member in the adoption of law. To the extent voluntary law contains ambiguities allowing for different results on similar facts, if ambiguities with real consequences persist it can only be because the people see such ambiguities as a desirable thing. If people want more specificity, they are free to adopt more specific laws. If a law is undesirably vague or indefinite, there will be public demand for more specific, definite laws. Poor or unworkable laws will be “upgraded” on an individual basis, as legal writers propose revisions which gradually grow in influence by individual adoption. Such upgrades may resemble software upgrades in today’s world, but with less pressure on users to upgrade and no single programmer in charge. Voluntary law is not licensed from some legal provider; each member “owns” their own adopted law in the public domain. Thus, there is no need for appeal to a higher court to maintain consistency or resolve ambiguities in law. Instead, the choices of each voluntary law member are respected, and each member has the power to guard against ambiguities as they see fit. There is no hierarchy of judicial power to serve.
The loss of binding judicial precedent doesn’t mean there can’t be influence, and reputation, and persuasive precedents. Such voluntary things will thrive and illuminate justice in voluntary law. The only authority will be what is most reasonable, durable, and true, in the context of the laws the disputants have bound themselves to. Clearly defective judgments will be unenforceable. Merely questionable ones will be subject to challenge at the point of enforcement, or before.
Under voluntary law, as in anarcho-capitalist legal systems, quality is enforced by voluntary exchange in a market for legal services that is highly regulated by prohibition of monopoly power. In the free market, it is reputation that matters most. Voluntary law, however, differs from anarchistic systems that permit law making by collective entities, and therefore exchange territorial democratic monopolies for vertically integrated collectives (e.g., corporations or cooperatives) that may resemble states without political boundaries. These collectives are sometimes described as “security agencies” with effective law-making power over the clients who voluntarily choose to use their services. Bundling of legal, insurance and enforcement services may be expected to occur under anarcho-capitalism as “traditionally” conceived, because of the economic advantages of power. For example, it might be supposed that ability of an anarcho-capitalist security agency to compete would rest heavily on its power to enforce its judicial decisions. A system of competing security agencies might reduce or eliminate bureaucratic inefficiencies of statist legal systems, but do little to provide justice for the poor or to provide separation between law making, judicial, and enforcement powers.
Basing police powers on the power to enforce claims exacerbates the privileges of the powerful, turns “might” into “right,” and incentivizes concentrations of police power. The minarchist reasons that monopolization of police power is inevitable, and that it is therefore preferable to subject police powers to democratic process than to permit them to operate solely under a property-rights regime. The anarchist reasons that whether or not monopolization of police power is inevitable, it is at least worth giving free-market policing a try. The anarchist will justify the experiment with reasons why a robust free market will suppress development of monopoly power. The state socialist believes that every market based on property rights is rigged in favor of holders of capital, and therefore state intervention is necessary to prevent markets from becoming instruments of oppression. State socialists and minarchists represent different varieties of statists. Anarcho-capitalists are sometimes called “propertarians” because they place faith in systems based on private property.
In contrast, voluntary law might be classed as a left-libertarian approach, or neutral position, because it neither justifies or forbids property rights, except for forbidding any person from owning another. Voluntary law prevents inequities in property distribution from subverting administration of justice, by empowering rich and poor alike to declare and be held responsible to their own individually chosen law. No entity holds law making power, except the individual natural person. Law-making by collective entities such as states, insurance companies or cooperatives, is not recognized. To the extent members of collectives follow a common voluntary law, such law is given effect only by the express adoption of such law by each individual member. In systems reserving the power to make laws to the individual, juristic service providers who welcome clients with a range of differing voluntary laws will enjoy a distinct competitive advantage over those who restrict their services to ruling on a single set of laws. Thus, to the extent legal cooperatives and collectives exist under voluntary law, their existence will depend primarily on economic efficiency, and they will render services under a diverse array of laws determined only by the individual preferences of their customers.
Voluntary law also creates greater separation between enforcement and judicial powers than can be obtained under statist or anarcho-capitalist models. This separation is critical to maintaining the quality of judicial determinations. The separation is created not by diktat, but by each claimant’s demand for neutrality of the judicial forum, without which a durable and respectable judgment cannot be had. The enforcer who benefits by enforcing her own judgments cannot possibly be neutral. That some benefit exists is demonstrated by the enforcer’s willingness to enforce; every person may be assumed to generally avoid acting contrary to self-interest. Thus, performance of enforcement necessarily poisons the neutrality of all judgments.
In statist legal monopolies, separation of judicial and enforcement powers cannot exist to the same degree. The state cannot provide any truly independent alternative legal forum in which to challenge the neutrality of state judicial powers, which have become systematically enmeshed and entangled with the enforcers of their judgments and the legislators who craft their laws. In fact, the more systematic the entanglement becomes, the more likely it is to escape notice and foster acceptance of judgments colored thereby. Systematic entanglements protecting and legitimatizing loss of neutrality by courts and police are well-known in statist systems. These take the form, for example, of sovereign or qualified immunity rules that render state prosecutors, judges and police immune from most charges arising from non-neutral exercise of their supposed powers. Even if such immunities did not exist, claimants usually lack recourse to any independent and non-neutral forum in which to try charges of non-neutrality or other incompetence.
In any other anarchistic system that grants law making power to collective entities, by comparison, there are economic advantages to be had from vertical integration. Free-lance law makers, judges and enforcers cannot as effectively attract customers because their laws, judgments, and enforcement actions are less likely to be effective than those provided by integrated service providers whose branches actively cooperate with one another. If, despite the theorizing of minarchists it is indeed possible for competing “security agencies” to coexist and compete for customers, such agencies will resemble states in every aspect but the claim of monopoly over a particular territory. All will depend on relationships with preferred enforcers and law makers in the same collective family. As such, all will hesitate before condemning judgments of competing agencies on the basis of such entanglements.
Why so much comparing to different politico-legal systems, under the topic of appeal and quality of judgments? Because it is not obvious that the germ of voluntary law results in a system that differs so fundamentally from what has been tried or posited before. There is no inherent right of appeal in voluntary law, because there is no need. Basing the law-making power solely in the individual eliminates all collective power to make laws, and provides competitive advantages to jurists capable of ruling for diverse parties holding diverse laws. Such jurists depend almost entirely on their reputation for their livelihood, and will act vigorously to protect public perception of their neutrality. Under a reputational system, neither disputants nor jurists will ignore bias in jurists who ally themselves too closely with particular enforcers. Any enforcement agency allied too closely with the jurist who has rendered the judgment that it seeks to enforce will quickly face a claim by the losing disputant. Such disputant will bring the claim before a jurist who is demonstrably neutral with respect to the enforcement agency.
Moreover, a security agency as a collective has no power to adopt voluntary law. Claims based in bias will therefore be brought against the individual jurists and enforcers responsible for the allegedly biased judgment, or its negligent enforcement. Pursuant to TROTWET, such claims will in the usual case be based on the voluntary laws of individual jurists and enforcers involved, or sometimes on the weaker tools of the claimants. There is no sovereign immunity. If such jurists or enforcers have adopted voluntary laws that deny reasonable claims based in biased provision of judicial services or negligent enforcement, they have publicly declared themselves unfit, and will not receive the business in the first place. Neither will collectives whose members include such unfit providers receive any business. When each member of a collective is held to her own law, the role of the collective as a legal shield for its members is destroyed. Instead, the collective is restricted to its proper use of efficient resource and risk sharing.
In voluntary law societies, judicial service providers are deprived of essentially coercive advantages over competing forums. There is no real advantage to be had in the provision of judicial services, other than a good reputation. People are initially skeptical of every adjudication forum, before its reputation is established, and of every untried jurist. Every juristic forum must build its own reputation, and none can exercise coercive power in doing so. Each forum can build its reputation in several ways. For example, by performing high quality services (e.g., prompt, courteous, and accurate) and by issuing high quality judgments or settlements that are seldom or never successfully the subject of malpractice or negligent enforcement claims. A jurist may also seek certification or approval from various consumer rating or certifying organizations. In turn, the certifying agencies must establish and protect their own reputations by not certifying or approving others without justification.
An adjudicating forum that either is unproven or has a reputation for issuing poor quality or biased judgments will find that its judgments are not easily respected. Judgments that are not easily respected will be much harder to enforce, if enforceable at all, because enforcers will fear liability arising from negligent enforcement of defective judgments. Therefore, the judgments of a jurist who lacks a proven reputation will be subjected to additional questioning by diligent enforcers, which raises costs for the claimant. Provided their laws allow, jurists can be held liable for issuing non-neutral or negligent judgments, and law enforcers can be held personally liable for enforcing judgments that they knew or should have known were of poor quality. Most neutral enforcers will therefore refuse to enforce any judgment that appears questionable or risky. Claimants may attempt to self-enforce shoddy judgments issued by sham judges under their own influence, but not without risking liability both for their enforcement actions, and for improperly influencing the judges.
Voluntary law does not leave the dissatisfied party without options, in the case of an incorrect or unenforceable judicial decision. A dissatisfied party’s most fundamental option is to sue the jurist for malpractice. Most jurists would, under market pressure, adopt laws permitting such claims. Requirements for proving judicial malpractice might vary, but in the presence of free and open competition between judicial service providers, such requirements cannot be overly onerous. Reasonable standards might require the claimant to prove a failure of the jurist to comply with a professional standard of care, and consequential damages. The market would determine such requirements, as with all other rules in voluntary law.
Another option, in cases where a decision includes a purportedly enforceable judgment, is for the losing party to convincingly show that the judgment is fatally defective and unenforceable, to any and every enforcement service hired to enforce it. In cases where a losing defendant is facing immediate enforcement, enforcement may, in effect, be stayed by filing a malpractice claim against the jurist who rendered the judgment. This will put would-be enforcers on notice that the judgment is disputed, and reputable enforcers will wait to see how the challenge plays out before risking malpractice liability themselves. Like jurists, enforcement service providers will generally be subject to malpractice liability, but for negligent enforcement of a facially defective judgment, and not for the judgment itself. Redress against enforcers might require repeating the showing to different enforcement services if a public malpractice claim is not made against the jurist, and might be countered by hiring less reputable, more judgment-proof enforcers. Nonetheless, it will at least raise the cost of obtaining reputable enforcement services to enforce judgments, and may sometimes render judgments entirely unenforceable. Either way, such post-adjudication defense activity would create settlement pressure similar to that created by appeal under statist systems, and pressure for higher-quality juror decisions. In general, enforcer liability is an effective check against unjust judicial decisions, and one almost entirely lacking under statist systems.
Could a losing litigant endlessly forestall enforcement by endlessly suing jurists who repeatedly rule against him? In theory, yes; but in practice, customs such as “loser pays” and reputation scoring make this type of behavior self-defeating in most cases. Each subsequent loss would diminish the chances of eventual success and become increasingly costly. Lengthy sequences of “malpractice appeals” might be reserved for more desperate cases in which penalties are irreversible (e.g., a death sentence) and there is a real hope of additional evidence favoring acquittal coming forth later on in the process. In these rare cases, stalling by any means would be justifiable. However, where new evidence of innocence is to be presented, there is no claim of malpractice to bring. Instead, the relief lies in a retrial of the original claim, in light of the new evidence. Retrials for new evidence would accordingly be a commonly afforded right, and asserting a judgment in the face of new evidence rendering the judgment unjust would itself create a legal claim against the one unjustly asserting it. Laws permitting such claims would be adopted by most people as a matter of self interest and social pressure.
A losing defendant seeking to weasel out of a judgment might instead consider finding a sleazy, judgment-proof jurist to hold the original jurist guilty of malpractice. The difficulty with this approach is the decidedly short supply of jurists who are both sleazy and judgment-proof enough to rule unjustly, and credible enough to provide an enforceable judgment. In the vast majority of cases the sleazy malpractice judgment would be of little real value; being given little credit by anyone, it would not prevent the original judgment from being enforced against the losing defendant.
Under voluntary law, will malpractice liability become so great as to practically choke off the market for juristic or enforcement services? There is, after all, something unique about litigation as a service, at least as it is known today. At or before the conclusion of almost every case, there is at least one highly dissatisfied party. At least in the United States of America, all too often all parties are highly dissatisfied, angry at the lawyers and judges involved, and ready to lash out. What would prevent such realities from malpractice claims in almost every case? This question is empirical, and actual results would vary based on many factors, for example, the cultural and sociological environment in which voluntary law is adopted. But there are reasons to think that the emotional experience of the parties under voluntary law would be vastly different and more satisfactory than what many experience under state laws, and malpractice claims would be the exception, not the rule. First, nobody could be sued under a law they did not previously personally adopt for themselves. Obviously, defendants would have much less reason to be dissatisfied with the law being applied, as it would be in their power to avoid undesirable laws. Second, jurists would not be immune from malpractice liability. Immunity is an affirmative defense, and would therefore generally not be available under TROTWET. In addition, competition with other jurists would tend to lessen availability of limits on malpractice liability under positive laws, which could otherwise apply. Therefore, jurists would take pains to as much as possible see that all parties are reasonably satisfied. If it became necessary to rule against a party in the interests of justice, for example by excluding evidence that a party wished to bring in, the jurist would be more likely to explain to the injured party why the ruling was necessary and obtain at least grudging acceptance of it. Third, jurists would be more active in promoting settlements, out of which malpractice liability would be less likely to arise. Fourth, if malpractice nonetheless became an unduly large systematic problem for all jurists, jurists as a group would adopt more restrictive liability laws, lessening their exposure as a group. Fifth, jurists would not be barred from forming associations or other collectives for promoting standards and reducing malpractice risks they face as a group. Sixth, competition for customers would in general tend to increase customer satisfaction, as can be seen in every free market regulated mainly by competitive pressure.
In addition, to reduce risk of malpractice liability, groups of jurists may offer a system of “appeal,” or other quality control measure, as part of their services. Claimants selecting such service group might agree that judgment is not considered final until all appeals or other quality control measures offered by their group are exhausted. Claimants might be willing to bring their business to service providers offering appeal or other means of quality control to reduce the risk of poor quality, unenforceable judgments. Other than appealing a decision to a new jurist or panel of jurists, quality control measures may include, for example, services such as random audits of juror performance, quality ratings, customer service ratings, and other measures. Competing service providers may be expected to develop innovative and cost-effective ways to rapidly resolve disputes over the quality of their judgments and enhance their own reputations as neutral, fair and competent jurists.
Might claimants choose forums where no appeal or other quality control is offered as part of the service, to avoid risk of reversal of an initial decision, or just to reduce expenses? Certainly, but generally in proportion to the confidence of the claimant in her claim, or inversely in proportion to the size of the claim. Claimants might tend to select more reputable, comprehensive juror services for difficult or important cases, and cheaper, less comprehensive services for easy or less important cases. Statist systems offer similar options to the claimant, in the form of different general and limited (e.g., small claim) courts. Often, limited courts have corresponding limited or no right of appeal, even in statist systems.
Claimants might be tempted to hire claimant-biased jurists who have adopted laws that do not recognize any malpractice liability. Such claimants might expect a ruling in their favor, and wish to deny the defendant the benefit of an opportunity to sue for judicial malpractice for bias. Defendants may avoid such tactics by adopting due process rules that require the jurist to adopt reasonable malpractice standards. Under Defendant’s Rule, defendants may thereby render facially invalid any judgment from a jurist lacking reasonable recourse, putting all reasonable enforcers on notice that the judgment is unenforceable as violating defendant’s due process rule. In response, the claimant might hire enforcers who disavow all malpractice liability, either by adoption of contrary voluntary laws, or by being outlaws. These enforcers would have little reason to care about the validity of the judgment, as they could not be sued for enforcing it.
In cases where negligent jurists and enforcers place themselves beyond reach of malpractice claims, the defendant’s legal recourse would be primarily against the claimant. Such claimant, having already ignored defendant’s due process rights, would not be entitled to any more protective due process than he has afforded to the defendant, and would be legally responsible for negligent enforcement of those he hired. Such a claimant might have adopted a law that does not recognize any liability for improper enforcement or other abuse of process. Such claimants would be publicly declaring themselves miscreants, although putting themselves out of legal reach.
As in the example of Cain, who adopted a law with insignificant penalties for murder, the defense against such miscreants is to extra-legally do unto them what they would do unto others. For example, the predatory claimant who denies all liability for abuse of process makes himself a target, under TROTWET, for abuse of process at the hands of the same jurists he would use against others. Those who would abuse process against him would do so without risk of legal liability and at no loss to their own reputations, as they would rightly be perceived as merely punishing a predator. Likewise, jurists or enforcers who hide behind voluntary laws denying liability for malpractice would make themselves targets for negligent judgments or enforcement by others, and their punishers would not need to risk legal liability or tarnish their more sterling reputations.
On the other hand, if jurists or enforcers have placed themselves beyond legal reach by purporting to rule on or enforce voluntary laws while being outlaws themselves, the defendant may take any desired extra-legal retribution against them, without any fear of liability under voluntary law. In considering this possibility, put out of your mind the idea of an outlaw as a ruffian or bandit. An outlaw may be a perfectly honorable person who merely chooses not to operate under voluntary law at all, and instead operates exclusively under some other legal system, for example, state law. Suppose, for example, that an arbitrator who is not a jurist nonetheless renders a judgment under voluntary law that has been voluntarily submitted to her. Recourse against a defective job by the arbitrator would be limited to actions available under the applicable state law. A judge appointed by the state (such judge being another species of outlaw under voluntary law) cannot hear a case under voluntary law, because such cases must be decided using processes and rules that are entirely unrecognized by, and alien to, the state and all state law. Recourse would be had under the law of outlaws.
Finally, people may choose to adopt voluntary due process laws that require winning parties to submit to a re-hearing or appeal of a specified type, after a first judgment. Although such legally-granted rights of appeal, as other due process rules, will necessarily be limited by the Defendant’s Rule and No Hypocrisy Rule explained in the previous chapter on due process, they might sometimes apply. Like other quality control measured, the extent to which due process requirements for appeal would be adopted cannot be predicted, and may vary with time, place, and changes in personal preferences. Whatever the particular outcomes, it can be said with confidence that appeal, review, re-hearing, malpractice claims, stays of enforcement and other quality control measures for judicial process will be present in voluntary law societies, to the extent demanded by their markets, free of influence from any collective possessing a power to make laws or provide a legal shield to jurists or enforcers.