How strong is the Cardassian legal system?

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How strong is the Cardassian legal system?

Post by Master Six » 2018-02-18 08:35pm

In a few episodes of DS9, the Cardassian justice system is shown or described as one that exists mainly as a show of power for the state. The moment you walk into court you've already been sentenced -- the point of the trial is to show how the accused was found out, and to show him why he was wrong to oppose the will of the almighty state. While I accept that the point of it is to discourage crime, encourage nationalism, and serve as an easy way to dispose of political rivals, it also seems inefficient and a bit cartoonishly evil on its own. When it comes to run-of-the-mill crimes, it would seem that a lot of innocent people could be wrongfully convicted and a lot of actual criminals set free -- evil or not, it's stupid to make it so that you have a greater chance of having to run more and more trials in your pursuit of the actual guilty party. I also find it odd that some of the "good"/dissident Cardassians do not seem to see it as yet another malady in a broken civilization. Even Garak seemed to have the same respect for its "logic" as any politician or bureaucrat (based on his enjoyment of the enigma tales of Shoggoth).

Is there something else going on here? Is the investigative arm of the Cardassian government so skilled and efficient that, in the cases where the government isn't simply trying to get rid of a dissident or an unpopular legate, the cops and judges actually DO KNOW who has committed the crime based on their evidence-gathering skills? We know that they endure rigorous mental training as they grow up, so it wouldn't be surprising to see a lot of talented investigators among their ranks. Not that this would excuse the massive violation of the accused's rights, but it would explain their decision to craft the trials in the way they do, where discovering the truth is not a priority.

Do any of the EU books go into greater depth about the internal workings of the system?

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Re: How strong is the Cardassian legal system?

Post by SpottedKitty » 2018-02-19 12:01am

The impression I got from those episodes is that the whole system ran on the principle that it was important only that someone be "found" guilty. If they actually were guilty, that would be considered a happy accident. I think there might be a bit of dialogue to that effect at one point. :wtf:
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Re: How strong is the Cardassian legal system?

Post by Master Six » 2018-02-19 01:24am

SpottedKitty wrote:
2018-02-19 12:01am
The impression I got from those episodes is that the whole system ran on the principle that it was important only that someone be "found" guilty. If they actually were guilty, that would be considered a happy accident. I think there might be a bit of dialogue to that effect at one point. :wtf:
The dialogue I remember really only confirms the procedure of the court -- accused is brought in, declared guilty, and then walked through how the case was solved and why it was bad of him to turn against the state. The idea of "the state knows all, its judgment is unimpeachable" is the domineering aspect of their culture, but it's not clarified whether the tried and punished people on a lark and just used that as an excuse, or if they were generally able to solve crimes with reasonable certainty, and thus became so enamored with their success that they ignored due process and just used the trial to show-boat. The latter seems more likely than the former. With political enemies I can definitely understand the trials being a farce for the purpose of public humiliation and disposal; I imagine there would regularly be statements like "You were charged with murder and we found no evidence, but we did discover you cheated on your taxes once -- good enough for us". The only time we actually see a Cardassian trial, it is a political case and O'Brien was framed just so that they would have an excuse to go to war with the Federation.

However, there has to be some realistic way to handle regular crimes in the judicial system. Even if the trial is run the same way. they'd want to find the actual thief, murderer, rapist, etc. and put him through that rigamarol. I get that the kangaroo court setup is supposed to scare the citizens into obedience, but any criminal who does evade trial is a living example of failure by the "perfect" state. For that reason alone, I would think the Cardassians would actually try to solve most crime. Perhaps they forego the trial process for mundane crimes and jump straight to punishment, but then that defeats the purpose of impressing every citizen with the genius of the state.

Plus, I again find it odd that someone like Garak, who would be victimized by the court system the moment he set foot on Cardassia, would still generally favor it. Either there's an efficient criminal investigatory branch that makes true litigation redundant (for a statist's purposes, anyway), or Garak really had no problem with Cardassia's government except for the specific individuals who happened to be making the decisions.
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Re: How strong is the Cardassian legal system?

Post by Gandalf » 2018-02-19 01:38am

I would presume that not every case gets to trial, just the ones that need to be seen to be tried.

Perhaps the local magistrate or Gul on their own decides between not guilty, guilty, and show trial.
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Re: How strong is the Cardassian legal system?

Post by Imperial Overlord » 2018-02-19 02:23am

There's nothing unprecedented about this. Japan has a 99% conviction rate and just like the Cardassians, Japanese society places a high value on social cohesion and conformity.
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Re: How strong is the Cardassian legal system?

Post by Q99 » 2018-03-15 09:21am

Basically in such a situation, the real filter should not be the trial, but the investigation system, where the investigators make incredibly sure of each case and if they're only 80% sure, they don't send someone to trial.

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Re: How strong is the Cardassian legal system?

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-03-15 10:35am

Or, if they care but not infinitely much, then they settle for being 80% sure and get the real criminal into jail four times out of five, throwing an innocent person in one time out of five.

I'm pretty sure the Cardassians have never heard of "better ten guilty men go free than that one innocent man go to prison."
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Re: How strong is the Cardassian legal system?

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-03-15 02:40pm

In the Cardassian State, it's more like "all persons tried by the State are guilty, but ten lucky Cardassians get to be executed."
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Re: How strong is the Cardassian legal system?

Post by Lord Revan » 2018-03-16 12:00am

I suspect that in the cardassian it's more about giving an image of strength then "scoring evil points", the cardassian goverment wanting to project the image image that their legal system is so capable that there's no need to question the guilt of accused as the people they put on trial will never be not-guilty.

It's a show trial, more conserned at finding an escape goat and boosting the prestige of the state then actually judging the guilty, I suspect that the Obsidian Order would either deal with real criminal that because too much of problem or made sure they were the ones put on trial. Basically it's all about giving the image of being highly capable and putting actual criminals in prisons is a nice bonus when it happens.

EDIT:One must remember that "guilty until proven innocent" seems like a nice way to make sure criminals can't avoid their punishment, until you're the one being falsely accused, which is why "guilty until proven innocent" was generally the legal system most commonly used in real life until very recently (recently from a historical point of view that is).
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Re: How strong is the Cardassian legal system?

Post by Prometheus Unbound » 2018-03-16 03:26pm

Master Six wrote:
2018-02-18 08:35pm
While I accept that the point of it is to discourage crime, encourage nationalism, and serve as an easy way to dispose of political rivals, it also seems inefficient and a bit cartoonishly evil on its own.
They're a fascist military regime at that point. Show trials are normal.

As for how strong the legal system is - very. Everyone brought to trial is guilty. That's a strong legal system.

How fair is it? Not at all.

Its point is not to be fair. They don't try to be. They don't pretend to be. It's there to show that justice is done (Cardassian justice).

To be fair, other than O'Brien's framing (where we get to see some of the legal workings), at some point I think Madred says that the streets are safe, there is no 'crime' so to speak in comparison to other empires. Very low rates. I think that was Picard's point - that ok it's super crime free but at what cost? He says they used to be spiritual and stuff and then Madred said that didn't feed the people etc and the conversation goes off topic for this thread.

So whether by accident or design, whatever system they have seems to 'work' in that there is little crime. But it's done in a brutal, horrible way. There was little crime in berlin in 1938 etc. But 'at what cost?'.

This shit happened IRL pretty much. Show trials, 'public shaming' - whether it was Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot or Mao or the Uns or Castro - this is how they do it.
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Re: How strong is the Cardassian legal system?

Post by Lord Revan » 2018-03-16 04:03pm

Prometheus Unbound wrote:
2018-03-16 03:26pm
Master Six wrote:
2018-02-18 08:35pm
While I accept that the point of it is to discourage crime, encourage nationalism, and serve as an easy way to dispose of political rivals, it also seems inefficient and a bit cartoonishly evil on its own.
They're a fascist military regime at that point. Show trials are normal.

As for how strong the legal system is - very. Everyone brought to trial is guilty. That's a strong legal system.

How fair is it? Not at all.

Its point is not to be fair. They don't try to be. They don't pretend to be. It's there to show that justice is done (Cardassian justice).

To be fair, other than O'Brien's framing (where we get to see some of the legal workings), at some point I think Madred says that the streets are safe, there is no 'crime' so to speak in comparison to other empires. Very low rates. I think that was Picard's point - that ok it's super crime free but at what cost? He says they used to be spiritual and stuff and then Madred said that didn't feed the people etc and the conversation goes off topic for this thread.

So whether by accident or design, whatever system they have seems to 'work' in that there is little crime. But it's done in a brutal, horrible way. There was little crime in berlin in 1938 etc. But 'at what cost?'.

This shit happened IRL pretty much. Show trials, 'public shaming' - whether it was Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot or Mao or the Uns or Castro - this is how they do it.
emphasis mine.

I wouldn't be surpriced if the actual crimerates in Cardassian Union didn't drop as much as the cardassians claim they did but criminals became smarter and harder to detect (or they joined the goverment, which is strongly implied if not outright stated to be quite corrupt).

With Hitler, Stalin or the others they didn't elimate crime so much as forced it to be smart to survive, thus creating an impression (especially to an outsider) that system works, helped along by corrupt and self serving politician and military leaders being more conserned about their on prestige then the fate of the cardassian people.

Essentially not only there's the "at what cost" thing to consider but the system working is actually an illusion maintained by people more conserned with their own agendas then creating a system at truly works.
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Re: How strong is the Cardassian legal system?

Post by Master Six » 2018-03-18 09:59am

Everyone's answers confirm my initial suspicions -- that like most authoritarian states, the Cardassians don't care about true justice, just keeping the people in fear of the power of the state. If some innocent lives are lost in the process, ah well -- they must have done something wrong. They treat their judiciary like they treat their computer systems: 80% accuracy/efficiency is good enough.

I wondered if the EU ever went into more detail about the workings of the court system and suggested that there was more nuance to it, but I suppose not. As for why even Cardassians who have lived outside the state (let alone in the Federation) would continue to praise such a backwards system, I suppose that can be chalked up to indoctrination, or simply thinking that you'll never do anything wrong or never get caught.
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Re: How strong is the Cardassian legal system?

Post by Master Six » 2018-03-18 10:13am

Gandalf wrote:
2018-02-19 01:38am
I would presume that not every case gets to trial, just the ones that need to be seen to be tried.

Perhaps the local magistrate or Gul on their own decides between not guilty, guilty, and show trial.
That's a good point -- the only trial we ever see deals with a political prisoner, which would be given more attention than the average rape or armed robbery. Either they have a lower tier court system for these matters or the local magistrate adjudicates them.
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Re: How strong is the Cardassian legal system?

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2018-03-18 11:24am

I think the reason ordinary Cardassians praise the system is precisely because they get repeatedly told - and shown - that "the verdict is always guilty." Tell a people that long enough and it's an easy jump to think that "if they're in court, they're guilty" and which then leads to "if you're innocent you won't wind up in court."

So if you don't break any laws, the system appears brilliant, it only punishes the guilty and there's no crime to bother you. All you have to do is be a good little Cardassian and not break the law and you'll be fine.
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Re: How strong is the Cardassian legal system?

Post by Lord Revan » 2018-03-18 06:31pm

Master Six wrote:
2018-03-18 09:59am
Everyone's answers confirm my initial suspicions -- that like most authoritarian states, the Cardassians don't care about true justice, just keeping the people in fear of the power of the state. If some innocent lives are lost in the process, ah well -- they must have done something wrong. They treat their judiciary like they treat their computer systems: 80% accuracy/efficiency is good enough.

I wondered if the EU ever went into more detail about the workings of the court system and suggested that there was more nuance to it, but I suppose not. As for why even Cardassians who have lived outside the state (let alone in the Federation) would continue to praise such a backwards system, I suppose that can be chalked up to indoctrination, or simply thinking that you'll never do anything wrong or never get caught.
We should also remember that we've seen little if any Cardassians who weren't benefactors in the system. Garak was before his exile a member of the Obsidian Order. Gul Dukat was captain/colonel level member of the cardassian military in charge of a semi-important planet.

As with place like Soviet Union the people who travel outside the Cardassian Union freely aren't ones who get screwed over by the state.
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Re: How strong is the Cardassian legal system?

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-03-18 07:24pm

Eternal_Freedom wrote:
2018-03-18 11:24am
I think the reason ordinary Cardassians praise the system is precisely because they get repeatedly told - and shown - that "the verdict is always guilty." Tell a people that long enough and it's an easy jump to think that "if they're in court, they're guilty" and which then leads to "if you're innocent you won't wind up in court."

So if you don't break any laws, the system appears brilliant, it only punishes the guilty and there's no crime to bother you. All you have to do is be a good little Cardassian and not break the law and you'll be fine.
To be fair, societies like Cardassia's often do have relatively little of the sort of "street crime" that the average person perceives as such.

High homogeneity, relatively few distinctions of class or caste or whatnot, the State running nigh-universal (if inefficient) employment that keeps everyone busy and with something to do...

It is very very much not paradise and I am not for a MOMENT claiming it's even a good thing, but one of the problems societies like this usually don't have is extensive street crime.
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Re: How strong is the Cardassian legal system?

Post by Master Six » 2018-03-19 01:16pm

Lord Revan wrote:
2018-03-18 06:31pm
We should also remember that we've seen little if any Cardassians who weren't benefactors in the system. Garak was before his exile a member of the Obsidian Order. Gul Dukat was captain/colonel level member of the cardassian military in charge of a semi-important planet.

As with place like Soviet Union the people who travel outside the Cardassian Union freely aren't ones who get screwed over by the state.
Dukat and Garak also fell from power in the Cardassian government, and were frequently targeted by others in the Obsidian Order or military -- losing a father to the system and having a father in the system want to kill you. Both were lucky to escape a Cardassian trial, but they were certainly prime cuts for a public execution. They have grounds to reconsider the merits of "guilty until proven innocent", much as any person who was willing to give police a lot of leeway would feel differently when they were subject to an illegal search/seizure. It's just as likely that they would still accept the system as it is, but I'd be skeptical if someone claimed they had no misgivings about what they had been taught to think.
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To be fair, societies like Cardassia's often do have relatively little of the sort of "street crime" that the average person perceives as such.

High homogeneity, relatively few distinctions of class or caste or whatnot, the State running nigh-universal (if inefficient) employment that keeps everyone busy and with something to do...

It is very very much not paradise and I am not for a MOMENT claiming it's even a good thing, but one of the problems societies like this usually don't have is extensive street crime.
That's also the boon of a post-scarcity society -- if you can at least keep yourself fed at no or little cost you erase the motive for probably 75% of all robberies. The problem is that when your belly's full you can get complacent, and you tolerate a lot from authority so long as they maintain that status quo. You let the government provide for you and you'll probably have to accept a minor, often redundant, job that at least keeps you occupied. At least in the Federation they encourage "betterment" and innovation, which means there still exists some desire for upward mobility. The average person in the UFP also has a lot more goods to choose from, so they still want to make money to buy the more complex stuff. In a fascist state you ultimately work to please your nation and the guy above you, and you don't usually get to choose from 10 brands of deodorant, so you act like a good cog and accept what you get.

It's definitely not paradise, but it can go down pretty easy..
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Re: How strong is the Cardassian legal system?

Post by Lord Revan » 2018-03-19 03:32pm

Master Six wrote:
2018-03-19 01:16pm
Lord Revan wrote:
2018-03-18 06:31pm
We should also remember that we've seen little if any Cardassians who weren't benefactors in the system. Garak was before his exile a member of the Obsidian Order. Gul Dukat was captain/colonel level member of the cardassian military in charge of a semi-important planet.

As with place like Soviet Union the people who travel outside the Cardassian Union freely aren't ones who get screwed over by the state.
Dukat and Garak also fell from power in the Cardassian government, and were frequently targeted by others in the Obsidian Order or military -- losing a father to the system and having a father in the system want to kill you. Both were lucky to escape a Cardassian trial, but they were certainly prime cuts for a public execution. They have grounds to reconsider the merits of "guilty until proven innocent", much as any person who was willing to give police a lot of leeway would feel differently when they were subject to an illegal search/seizure. It's just as likely that they would still accept the system as it is, but I'd be skeptical if someone claimed they had no misgivings about what they had been taught to think.
the thing you must understand is that neither Garak or Dukat might not see they problems being the result of the cardassian legal system being utterly FUBAR. To them it might seem that issue wasn't so much the system itself but that wrong people were in-charge of the system.

The idea of reconsidering the merits of cardassian goverment could be an utterly alien concept to your average cardassian.
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