Bacon on Judicature

February 29, 2008 at 1:49 PM

I recently finished reading Fracis Bacon's Essays, Civil and Moral; I found these essays to span the range between insightful, enjoyable, tedious, insipid, and outright offensive. One particular excerpt from Of Judicature struck me as particularly insightful, and nearly prescient of today's litigious attitude towards copyright infringement and problem-solving in general:

The attendance of courts, is subject to four bad instruments. First, certain persons that are sowers of suits; which make the court swell, and the country pine. The second sort is of those, that engage courts in quarrels of jurisdiction, and are not truly amici curiæ, but parasiti curiæ [not friends but parasites of the court], in puffing a court up beyond her bounds, for their own scraps and advantage. The third sort, is of those that may be accounted the left hands of courts; persons that are full of nimble and sinister tricks and shifts, whereby they pervert the plain and direct courses of courts, and bring justice into oblique lines and labyrinths. And the fourth, is the poller and exacter of fees; which justifies the common resemblance of the courts of justice, to the bush whereunto, while the sheep flies for defence [sic] in weather, he is sure to lose part of his fleece.

Summarized, this amounts to:

  1. An overabundance of lawsuits is detrimental to both the court system and the country as a whole.
  2. There are those (the parasiti curiæ) who seek for the court to tread beyond its boundaries for their own gain.
  3. There are those who by confusion and trickery seek to mask and subvert justice in general.
  4. The courts ought to be a safe haven; because of greed, however, litigation often inflicts undue burden on the party needing safety.

It should be patently obvious (that pun was unintentional, but I'm enjoying it enough to leave it there) how often various reincarnations of these four points surface in today's technological landscape, and I would assert that all four are equally detrimental today as they were in the 1600s.