It is safe to assume that justice is always served in a court of law. But that’s not always the case. There are some rulings that call to question not just the ruling the but the long-held assumptions that courts in democratic nations around the world are incorruptible. These bad judgements can have a detrimental effect on not just the petitioner but the society, with social and political impacts that can change the way we live.
While most judges do their job with the utmost fairness, there are some striking examples of bad court opinions. The following are the top 3.
1. Margaret Bessen vs. Stuart Bessen of East Northport, Long Island (2010)
In this typical divorce case, the couple accused each other of everything from child mistreatment to threats of violence against one another. But it was the judge’s series of decisions that make it an interesting case. To begin with, the judge ruled that Stuart will pay Margaret $200 a week in child support and $500 a month for car payments. But when he failed to honor the car payments and the car was repossessed, the judge did nothing.
When claims of child mistreatment arose during the hearing, the judge seemed to take Stuart’s side by ordering Margaret undergo psychological evaluation. This ruling meant that Margaret was now considered a danger to her own children and while abuse by either parent remained unsubstantiated, the judge awarded full custody of the children to Stuart and ordered Margaret to pay $153.90 a week child support. This is despite the fact that Margaret makes $13,000 a year and tax returns showed Stuart made $528,000.
2. Kelo vs. The City of New London (2005)
The City of New London envisioned a development plan that was earmarked to revitalize the city’s economy. To do this, the city purchased land for the project from willing sellers. But at some point, some of the sellers reneged on their decision to sell. The city in response, commenced condemnation on the seller’s property. The sellers brought a case to the state court saying the City had no right to take their property, terming it a violation of the “public use” restriction in the Fifth Amendment’s Taking’s Clause.
The state court granted a restraining order, preventing the city from taking some of the properties but denied relief to others. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld all the proposed takings in a landmark ruling June 23, 2005. In its ruling the court stated that the proposed disposition of the property qualifies as “public use.”
3. Lucas vs. South Carolina Coastal Council (1992)
The petitioner, Lucas purchased beach-front property in 1986 with the intention to build homes on the property. At the time of purchase, his lots were not subject to the state’s coastal zone building permit requirements. The state enacted the Beachfront Management Act in 1988, barring Lucas from building homes on the property.
He filed a law suit saying that even though the Act was lawful and within South Carolina’s mandate, it made it impossible for him to derive any “economically viable use” of his property and as such he should be justly compensated under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The State court agreed, granting him $1.2 million in compensation. But the case went all the way to Supreme Court which reversed the state court’s ruling, saying that when a regulation is meant to prevent harmful used of the property, no compensation is due to the owner regardless of the property’s value.