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Wealth Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System

The criminal justice system is lawfully obligated to impartially represent the people, regardless of wealth and social status. The entire essence of the criminal justice system is based on the idea of true unbiased justice and is expected to administer these concepts to establish a system in which absolutely everyone receives equal and fair treatment in regard with the law. However, our societal concepts and beliefs has undoubtedly hindered with the system creating the discriminatory, unequal, and unjust criminal justice system we have today. The problem begins with the idolization of celebrities and wealth leading to high profile lawyers grating celebrities access to special treatment in the court of law. Opportunities of which that would be unattainable by the average person of average income, this has created a system that is unethical and undoubtedly discriminatory. While it is understood that celebrities presumably pay their lawyers more than an average person. It is not lawful that celebrities charged with crimes of the equivalent stature of an average citizen should ever receive different or special treatment or sentencing.

A multitude of high profile lawyers try to cheat the system to keep the press from being informed on the case or receiving any information. According to the first amendment all people have the freedom to press, no one should be able to minimize that right. The lawyers attached to these cases do their best to ensure that their clients are protected from media backlash. An article titled “Dealing with the Press in High-Profile Cases, How to neutralize the 13th Juror” by Ellen C. Brotman says that “media advocates say today’s unmatched effort at secrecy cheats the public out of its First Amendment right to observe and criticize the system through its surrogates in the press. Ideally, public oversight is supposed to keep the system honest.” It isn’t right that some people are protected from the media and others have no defense at all. This is a type of discrimination is creating unequal treatment between wealthy and regular criminals.

Special treatment of celebrities by their lawyers is creating an unjust criminal justice system, but, I have also come to realize that “high-profile cases have high-profile clients whose reputations can be ruined no matter what the outcome” Although Ellen Brotman is correct in saying this, I also cannot help but wonder what kind of substance that statement holds if it is implying that the average person’s reputation can’t be ruined as well? If the justice system were fair, there would not be such a discrepancy between the protection of the two groups of people.

The injustice created by high profile lawyers in the criminal justice system is apparent primarily because they have such a strong effect on the media. This is a problem because a lot of the time tabloids and media is bias. In turn, this creates an impartial jury. An article titled “Celebrity Adjudication: Comparative Analysis of the United States Verdict Rates for Celebrity Defendants” written by Bruce A Carroll suggests that “this combination ofa susceptible jury, a strong mediainfluence, and celebrity presence cancause the jury to render a judgment that is biased bythe media at the expense of a fair judicial preceding…” It is not impossible to see how the jury’s perception can be warped.

People reading the news and blog posts are also not shown the reality of the cases in many situations. Author Patrick Furman elaborates on this idea in his article titled “Publicity in High Profile Criminal Cases.” He says that “the image [to become] as important as the substance-a bizarre and unsettling state of affairs to those of us who value reality.” The best way to protect high profile cases being broadcasted misleadingly is by keeping these affairs in the courtroom and not manipulating a case to make the best story. As Furman states, “it is fine in Hollywood but not in a real courtroom.” High profile cases cause the lawyers to sometimes not handle their cases professionally due to media attention, “these [cases] are also precisely the cases which are most likely to tempt us into behaving out of character and unprofessionally.” This is a cause of an unfair justice system as these high profile lawyers are not lawfully doing their jobs nor are they doing them correctly, yet somehow are still getting justice for their clients.

If the lawyers in our criminal justice system found ways to make high profile cases treated the same way as normal cases, the system would be harmonious in some way at least. Celebrity criminal reputations are protected while criminals that are represented by public defenders, other lawyers, etc… are forced to take on the media and public backlash with no defense. There have been instances in which judges will decide to make a deal with a celebrity criminal or high profile lawyer so that the case is kept out of the public eye as much as possible. There are so many advantages that come with being part of a high profile case. However, there are so many disadvantages for an average criminal that a person of high caliber does not have to deal with. Average people face their reputations being destroyed by the media with no protection. Most of the time, lower profiled criminals are shown in the media in a terrible light and are not given the benefit of the doubt. While wealthy criminals have someone to protect them from a lot of the media backlash, normal people do not have this luxury. Regular criminals are forced to have their faces plastered on social media with untrue headings and have absolutely no one to pay these people to stop.

The criminal justice system was supposed to be built on amendments that protect the rights of every person, criminal or not, and we are all supposed to be treated equally in a court of law. High profile lawyers cause our criminal justice system to be unjust by creating what seems to be a new type of government that favors wealthy criminals. People with a public defender, other lawyers, etc… should have the same treatment as a celebrity/high profile criminals. Simply because their lawyers receive a larger paycheck does not mean that they are above the law. This is not how the criminal justice system is meant to run as there should be one unified government that represents all people equally without wealth discrimination.


Carroll, B. A. (2013). Celebrity adjudication: Comparative analysis of united states verdict rates for celebrity defendants. Entertainment and Sports Law Journal, 11(1), 1-8.

Furman, H. (1998). Publicity in high profile criminal cases. St. Thomas Law Review, 10(3), 507-536.

Brotman, E. C. (2015). Dealing with the press in high-profile cases: How to neutralize the 13th juror. Litigation, 41(4), 40-44.

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