Judges Don’t Have To Understand Something To Rule On It

In most professions the opinions of those who lack an understanding of a pertinent topic are rightfully ignored. Why would anybody waste time asking somebody who knows nothing about software development about the best method to implement a software feature? But the legal field is not most professions. In the legal field you can lack an understanding of a pertinent topic and still be taken seriously as proven time and again when a judge attempts to rule on a case involving technology:

In short, Judge Byran, despite hearing the views of those who took part in the investigation, and having read the briefs submitted by the defense and prosecution several times, could not fully grasp what the NIT was doing.

“If a smart federal judge still has trouble understanding after hours of expert testimony what is actually going on,” then the average judge signing warrant applications has little hope of truly understanding what the FBI is proposing, Nate Wessler, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told Motherboard in a phone interview. (The ACLU has agreed to a protective order for the Michaud case, allowing it access to the sealed filings.)

“It appears in this case, and that’s consistent with other cases we’ve seen elsewhere in the country involving use of malware, the government explanations and warrant applications are quite sparse, and do not fully explain to judges how these technologies works,” Wessler added.

As the hearing continued, Judge Byran said “I suppose there is somebody sitting in a cubicle somewhere with a keyboard doing this stuff. I don’t know that. It may be they seed the clouds, and the clouds rain information. I don’t know.”

Emphasis mine. The judge openly admits that he doesn’t know how the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) malware works and further emphasizes this fact but saying something entirely nonsensical. In almost any other profession the judge’s rambling would have been dismissed but in the legal profession his ruling, even though he has no idea what he’s ruling on, is respected.

This is yet another item in a long list of problems with the United States legal system. The fate of accused parties is being put into the hands of individuals who are entirely unqualified to make the decisions they’re tasked with making. As soon as Judge Byran said he didn’t know what was going on he should have been replaced by somebody qualified. In any other profession he would have been. But a judge’s power is more important than their knowledge in the courtroom. How anybody can look at such a system and claim it dispenses justice is beyond me.