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October 29, 1986 - Image 4

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-10-29

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4

OPINION
Page 4 Wednesday, October 29, 1986 The Michigan Daily

i ,

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Put courts on television

Vol. XCVII, No. 40

420 Maynard St.

Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Unsigned editorials represent a majority of the Daily's Editorial Board
All other cartoons, signed articles, and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion of the Daily.

Working values

PRESIDENT REAGAN'S PRO-
BIG business stand is adversely
affecting worker health and safety
through his manipulation of
regulatory standards of the
Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA).
OSHA was created in 1971 to
ensure safety on the job for U.S.
workers. Although the agency was
initially ineffective, it started
issuing important regulations and
inspecting work facilities for
hazardous conditions under the
Carter administration. OSHA
cost/benefit analysis determines the
value of a human life in the
workplace, which determines the
amount business is required to
spend to protect each worker.
These OSHA estimates affect all
federal regulations including the
Environmental Protection Agency's
(EPA) rules on acid rain and many
in the private sector such as in
hospitals. The experts at Carter's
OSHA decided the value of a
worker's life was so high that
benefits would outvalue almost any
cost to business to implement the
regulation.
But the Reagan administration
has deliberately changed the
cost/benefit equation in order to
drastically cut the occupational
safety costs to business. This
change consists of combining the
worker's salary with the death and
accident reports of that occupation
to determine the value their life.
This equation is designed on the
assumption that people who choose
to work in more dangerous jobs,
which are higher-paid, must value
their lives less. What is not taken
into consideration is the fact that
people often take dangerous jobs
because they are desperate for
work.

Reagan has also hurt the
effectiveness of OSHA by cutting
the number inspectors by one-
third; those remaining work under
new guidelines designed to
intimidate them from citing
business for breaking occupational
health and safety regulations. For
instance, the inspectors are now
required to give employers forms
on which anonymous complaints
can be made against the inspector
after an inspection. These OSHA
employees are penalized if an
employer contests too many
citations, regardless of whether the
complaints are valid. Reagan also
instituted a new procedure whereby
employers who report low worker-
injury rates are exempt from further
inspections, without further
verification of their reports. Injury
reports have sharply decreased
since 1981; all work-related
fatalities of United Auto Workers
(UAW) members in 1983 took
place in worksites exempt by this
new rule which suggests the
Reagan policy is not working.
Under Reagan's OSHA, 40
percent of U.S. workers
previously protected by health and
safety standards have lost that
privilege and 80 percent of the
nation's workers have been
excluded from the "right-to-know"
rule which would notify them of,
any deadly chemicals in their
worksite. Not ironically,
occupation-related deaths soared 21
percent by 1984 and injury rates
were up 13 percent.
Such irresponsible measures and
startling statistics demonstrate the
Reagan administration's
commitment to furthering business
at any cost -- even that of a
worker's health or life.

Americans are fascinated with their
legal system.
The attraction has traditionally been to
suspenseful courtroom dramas, with
brilliant and crusading lawyers. But now
even mundane forms of the legal process
are getting attention.
Witness what we watch on TV. We
have three shows - "People's Court",
"Divorce Court", and "Superior Court" -
dedicated to the dryer aspects of the legal
system.
Imagine six years ago as someone got
what must have seemed like a crackpot
idea. Dramatize small claims court. A
man pays a shoemaker to widen his shoes
from 7 C to 8 EE. The shoemaker
messes up and instead shortens the shoe
to 6 1/2 BB, while at the same time
ripping one of the man's shoelaces. The
man is outraged and demands full
remuneration. The shoemaker refuses,
saying he has a strict no return policy and
denying he even ripped the shoelace. The
man sues and the two battle it out in
court. Throw in a loveable old
curmudgeon for a judge and tweedy
reporter Doug Lewelyn to interview them
after the case, and you've got a television
series.
Clearly it seemed the man who
designed this show was not long for his
job.
But the show caught on. People loved
it.
Judge Wapner became a celebrity. And
viewers would tune in nightly to watch
"ordinary people" have their day in court.
There is only one question that springs
to mind when one considers the
popularity of "People's Court." Why?
The success of the show seems to
parallel the attitudes of the country. We
live in a litigous "I'm going to sue you"
society.
"Mental anguish" has become the new

fad. The hallmark case involved a woman
in San Francisco. Though not physically
injured in a trolley car accident, she sued,
saying the mental anguish caused her to
Marbury vs. Madison could be another
episode. We could all tune in as Doug
Lewelyn interviews an elated William
Marbury and a disgruntled James
Madison.
Celebrity judges could make special
appearances. Bill Rehnquist could try
Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka,
Kansas. And find segregation legal.
The judges on these courtroom shows
would be made to look as official as
possible. There may still be a problem
with realism, though. Most of the TV
judges may not have the same
qualifications as real judges. In the case
of some Reagan appointees, they'll be
more qualified. They may be able to
spell.
The TV court programs have had their
good and bad effects. One good thing is
that people are now more aware of their
rights. TV has always been effective for
this form of education. Who the hell
would know their Miranda rights were it
not for the countless hours spent
watching "Adam -12?"
These new shows may also be
attracting a different clientele to the law
schools. In the past, lawyers were
brought up in aristocratic families and
were taught respect for the law as a sacred
social contract that bound society
together. Now, the new generation of
lawyers will be weaned on "Divorce
Court" and Judge Wapner.
Television has brought the judicial
system to the public.
Already we have an all music channel,
an all news channel, and an all weather
channel. In our litigous and compulsive
society, how long will it be before we
have an all legal channel?
"Hi. I'm your guest VJ William
Kunstler. And this hour we'll be seeing
highlights from Plessy vs. Ferguson,
Roe vs. Wade, and we'll be talking to a
man who sued his neighbor because the
dog ate his television. And it's only here
on Legal TV, the only 24 hour legal
channel."
Talk about mental anguish.
.OES IT OVERTURN LAWG
YOU LVE. ANDM (OLt
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No-T ALT TRoS NINE
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\N ST THE.LAW IS!
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--51

be.sexually frigid. The judge decided her
sex life was worth $50, 000. (How -the
judge arrived at that figure is another
matter altogether and will nota be
discussed here).
Recently another California woman
sued and won. Her claim: the CAT scan
that the hospital gave her zapped her
psychic powers.
With examples like this, is it aky
wonder shows like "People's Court" 're
popular? The people on that show -
compared to the people in real life -'ae
not crackpots.
But, of course, "People's Court" wasn't
enough. Next came "Divorce Court."
And then to round out the courtroo
trilogy, "Superior Court."
There are no brilliant lawyers here. No
crusading battles for right or wrong. 'No
suspenseful courtroom deliberations. It's
just the American legal process, minus
all the paper work and condensed iri to
Reader's Digest form.
And people love it.
One wonders what will be next. How
trivial is too trivial? How mundane can
the shows get?
How about "Probate Court" where
viewers watch as judges divide .p
people's estates?
Or "Traffic Court," where people can
fight it out over who pulled out of the
parking space first? were the groceries
blocking the man's rear view mirror? or
did the person really fail to give the
proper turn signal? Myriad of bizarie
traffic accidents can be thought up for tis
show. And if this show catches on, there
will be a spinoff. If people have a
fascination with moving violations, why
not non-moving violations? "Parking
Referee" will be the next show. Watchas
plaintiffs go to contest their parking
tickets before a tough but righteous
parking referee. Was the fire lane clearly
marked? Did the man really have his
parking permit the required 2 3/4 inches
above the dash?
And then there could be "Naturalization
Court." Viewers watch as immigrants
get sworn in.
My personal favorite would be "Classic
Court." Classic cases from the history of
the United States could be deliberated.
Who wouldn't watch when Judge Wapner
rules on the Dred Scott Case?
WRITEWA NOW0 FOR

Do0e
GIVE

TtHF 5UP2?, C O12T
YOU A P

MA"I FPEIE

FOOV1. T

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Spellbinding Series

Yotu MAVEYOUR

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-T RY' VE 6EEN CHiAN GI N&
200I MINDS $!

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T HEBASEBALL SEASON ENDED
finally with the seventh game of the
World Series Monday night. The
83rd World Series between the
victorious New York Mets and
Boston Red Sox was complete
with thrills that baseball fans will
relive for many years. Game 6
alone, in which the Mets were
down to their last strike and behind
by two runs in the 10th inning,
rates right up there with the best
World Series games ever played.
Perhaps the Series will be
remembered for the Red Sox
failure to win their first fall classic
since 1918 when Woodrow Wilson
was President, and Babe Ruth was
their star pitcher. Give the Sox
credit, though. Baseball experts
figured them to finish no higher
than fifth this year in their division,
the American League East. They

turned back challenges from teams
such as the Yankees, Tigers, and
Baltimore Orioles all season long,
and they themselves were down to
their last strike in the American
League Championship Series
against the California Angels.
This year, however, belonged to
the Mets. They won their division,
the National League East, by 21
and one-half games. They finished
the regular season with 108
victories, the most wins since the
Cincinnati Reds won 108 back in
1975 (they, too, beat the Red Sox
4 games to 3 in the World Series).
They defeated the Houston Astros
in the National League
Championship Series in thrilling
fashion in a 16 inning game six
come-from-behind victory.
Congratulations to both teams
for a most memorable season, and
a heart-stopping World Series.

- S

w
..
.

f

F
cz

I

--t_

--!

I - -

LETTERS:

Daily is naive about homeless issue

To the Daily:
As a volunteer at the Ann
Arbor Homeless Shelter, I was
a little disappointed in your
editorial "bringing home
homelessness" (Daily10/8/86),
in which you seem to have
such a simplistic answer to a
complicated situation.You
contradicted yourself in the
opening paragraph by saying
"the arrst of a homeless Ann

people are living in dorm
lounges it is because they have
nowhere to stay;... Needless to
say, they don't have access to
laundry facilities, either." If
anybody from the Daily
actually did any volunteering at
the shelter, they would know
that any homeless person is
free to use the sleeping and
laundry facilities there, except

might have explained his long
stay over in the dormitory.
You then concluded your
editorial by saying "as
students, and concerned
community members, it is
possible to have an impact.
The homeless shelters here in
Ann Arbor needs volunteers; as
Pete Seeger once said about
where to go to change the

Don't run away. Dig in.
Maybe if the Daily practiced;
what it preaches, and didn't
always assume things, it wouldl
know what it was talking'
about.',
-Roberto Javier;
Frisanch o
MSA Rep.

4

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