Attorney general-designate Benjamin R. Civiletti today said the Watergate scandal reminded Americans of the necessity of independent federal law enforcement, but also left behind a climate of unhealthy cynicism that has yet to be checked.
In a panel discussion on the effects of Watergate reform presented to the American Bar Association, Civiletti said the government's most important goal was to "recapture the full confidence of the American people in the independence and integrity of the justice system."
In another matter, federal courts too often treat women's claims of sexual discrimination as "lightweight matters," a Columbia University law professor who has argued numerous women's rights cases before the Supreme Court told the convention.
The Supreme Court and lower tribunals have displayed a "failure to appreciate the very deep roots . . . of the law's reinforcement of society's discrimination against women," Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Monday.
It was also reported that the state of Georgia will begin an experiment to consolidate death penalty appeals and bring a "finality" to the process of capital punishment, the chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court said.
The plan, which has received widespread endorsement from supreme court justices in other states, could cut by two-thirds the time some death row prisoners spend waiting for execution or redemption, Chief Justice H. E. Nichols said.
"We've got people waiting to be executed who have been in the penitentiary for six to eight years," said Nichols, in Dallas for the convention. "There ought to be a finality somewhere down the line.
The length of appeals makes a mockery of the entire judicial system, to make us go over and over it again.The public is sick of not being able to finalize a judgment, and they're blaming the judges -- and they're right."
Nichols, 67, said Georgia law has 11 points of appeal, such as a defendant's claim he was not properly told of his rights, that may be pursued. He said, however, that each of those points may be pursued, one at a time, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.