Friday, July 1, 2011

Is the Case Against DSK Falling Apart?

There shouldn’t be anything particularly surprising about reports that, owing to the alleged victim’s lack of credibility, the criminal case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn ("DSK") is unraveling. Criminal prosecutions unravel all the time for just that reason. The interesting thing is that I, and I’ll bet a lot of other people, are experiencing so sharp a pang of disappointment at hearing the news.

The story of DSK’s guilt is too perfect: a world-class sexual thug, and a card-carrying member of France’s unbearably smug ruling class, being brought low by the anguished testimony of a hotel maid while his friends in high places sputter in incomprehension of our democratic ways. Professor Jacobson reminds me that DSK case bears a more-than-trivial resemblance to the Duke Lacrosse case that had all those gasbags on the Duke faculty taking such unseemly pleasure in seeing a lot of rich white kids being brought low by the testimony of an African-American exotic dancer. In both cases, litigation was expected to bear the weight of an ideological narrative.

There’s a lesson here: our courts are designed to adjudicate concrete “cases and controversies” that arise out of particularized allegations that some individual person or entity has injured some other person or entity. That's a bad recipe for a morality play that dramatizes and vindicates our ideological commitments.  We should remember that the next time we rush off to the courts to resolve one of our political disputes.

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