I'm creating a legal system without supreme court.

Instead I want citizens who are ready to spend something like 40 hours a year learning about an area [agriculture, energy, transportation, finance etc] to be able to veto legislation in that particular area.

The problem I have is allowing citizen justices to self-select risks regulatory capture. By that I mean only farmers would go into agriculture and they will rubber stamp ethanol subsidies laws, or banksters will happily deregulate their frauds. Though it would be probably better then now since the electorate will be bigger.

On the other hand if I make it as jury duty I'm getting unmotivated citizens who will find it as annoying duty.

Any idea for better selection?

  • $\begingroup$ So, basically, you're talking about a part-time citizen-judiciary, similar to the way early legislators were (where legislating really could be a part-time job)... $\endgroup$
    – Shalvenay
    Oct 30, 2016 at 16:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Shalvenay I'd rather have part timers then professional crooks $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Oct 30, 2016 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ There is a precedent for having important posts filled by draftees for short terms. This is basically the way that the Bahai religion is organized. It also sounds as if your citizen justices are really specialized legislators and not actually judicial officers. If courts are divided by subject area, 40 hours a year isn't nearly enough to master any one subject area and a lack of a central body to resolve jurisdictional disputes between them could be a big problem. $\endgroup$
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 30, 2016 at 17:38
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    $\begingroup$ @ohwilleke Sounds interesting could you provide some links re Bahai organization don't want go through their religious beliefs? $\endgroup$ Oct 30, 2016 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ I think you are asking "How do I make a legal system to get a fair Judge without a traditional professional Judge that takes on the job as a career". The simple quick answer is that a Judge just rules of the procedings. You can educate all citizens what is expected of a judge and their duty to maintain those rules and you're fine if you have "informant lawyers" to inform juries of the specific laws the trial is discussing, and all trials will have a jurry rather than only major trials. $\endgroup$
    – Durakken
    Oct 30, 2016 at 23:42

4 Answers 4


There is no way to avoid bias. Even farmers who become experts on finance are going to promote finance policies that help them, or at least the majority will. Legislation on agriculture isn't the only thing that affects a farmer, and the same goes for all other areas.

Also note that 40 hours a year is practically nothing. The citizens will be absolute beginners in their areas. Giving them power to veto legislation is a dangerous business.

Now if you really want to keep this system, here are some ideas:

  • The citizens are chosen at random (like jury duty) but are allowed to refuse. Being able to veto legislation is a major incentive, so I wouldn't worry about not being able to find any citizens up to the task. However, this type of incentive will mean that your justices will probably lean towards having very strong political feelings which compelled them to accept. Strong political feelings are more associated with those at the ends of the political spectrum so people like moderates will likely be underrepresented. If this is an issue for you, you can also add other incentives. Keep in mind that the types of incentives will influence the kinds of people who are more likely to agree. Possible incentives: money (fixed amount or percentage of income?), land, free tuition, etc.
  • Citizens are only eligible to be justices in areas that are not directly connected to their livelihoods. E.g. farmers can't be justices on agriculture.
  • There is a pool of citizen justices in an area, and legislation is only vetoed if enough agree. A set percentage of the vote must be met. If you pick justices from a variety of backgrounds, there is less worry about bias. They will also have to discuss the matter with others to try to pull them toward their side. This changes your set system though, because no one individual has the power to veto.
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    $\begingroup$ "40 hours a year is practically nothing." That's more then what current politicians spend beside filling their pockets. Good ideas otherwise $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Oct 30, 2016 at 17:19
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    $\begingroup$ Most politicians have considerable educational background in relevant fields and then learn more on the jobs and have staffers who do further research for them. $\endgroup$
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 30, 2016 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ @ohwilleke It is mainly the support staff. Educational background (often in law, but not always) does not approximate backing in areas they pass laws over. $\endgroup$
    – Yakk
    Oct 30, 2016 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ Even if we accept that politicians may not nothing about, say, agriculture, they know much more about how law works, and (if the system are democratic) hear arguments from both sides. A random citizen studying only one subject is a different case. $\endgroup$
    – Student
    Oct 31, 2016 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Yakk Having spent time on a legislative staff in Congress and having been the law partner of a state legislator, I have to say that you are mistaken about legislative staffs mostly being support staff. Almost every staffer from the lowliest intern to the person who processes the mail and on up does some legislative research and is knowledgable of some portfolio of legislative research (often a hodgepodge based on the needs of the moment), those who don't do much research are mostly "fixers" who solve disputed with the government for constituents. $\endgroup$
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 31, 2016 at 14:55

If you want to rely on wisdom of the crowds, you must have institution that serves as useful guide instead of being a just another hoop that politicians must jump through.

I would go with the fallowing:

  1. Random selection with a right to refuse (in order to avoid regulatory capture and limit iron law of oligarchy)
  2. Elected for minimum of 4 and maximum of 12 years
  3. Remove all those whose voting record differs the most after 4 years (this will limit dissidents but your institution will have more predictable mind)
  4. Payment of average annual salary for their work (so you could have many citizen-justices, large electorates are difficult to bribe/threaten whatever)
  5. Requirement of spending 1/3 of the average working hours on duty (those include both training and deciding on laws/cases)

I don't think that being ineligible in area of your livelihood is a good idea, all the professionals know more about the area they work in then part timers, and since they will be in a minority anyway due to random selection, farmers/bankers will have to persuade fellow justices that subsidies/bailouts are the right choice.


Select them at random, but not just for one trial.

Instead of selecting a new jury for each trial, select these citizen judges for a multi-year term in a specific court type. Courts specialize in broad areas such as fraud, drugs, taxes ...

Once the citizen judges are selected, the usual conflict-of-interest rules apply to excuse them from any one case. In their first year they may be inexperienced, but they will learn. Schedule the selection so that newbies serve with more experienced ones. Call it one day per week for five years. Accounting for holidays and vacation time, 300+ hours OJT in the first year, plus 1,200+ hours in subsequent years.

Of course that requires serious compensation for these citizen judges, on a level that allows them to cut back on their regular profession. On the other hand, they must retain an option to get back to the old job afterwards.


Your post first claims the issue you have is bias and then mentions motivation and annoyance. Which is it? How do you fix all three? Random selection, large enough pool, large enough court, and a carrot large enough to be motivating - say $10,000,000. for a year IF they pass a competitive exam. Maybe as determined by a panel of judges from lower courts chosen at random - that is: both an ("unbiased") academic test, as well as a reality-tv type contest. I'll point out the obvious. There's no requirement that you have to be a lawyer to be a justice on the SCOTUS but the issues are fundamentally legal so few examples exist of someone who hasn't had a formal education in Law. Let's say, 3 yrs of Law School at 6hrs a day, 6 days a week, 50 weeks a year. That's 5400 hours (and that AFTER a bachelors!!!). Or lets take the low side: 3 hrs a day, 4 days/wk, 40 wks per year for 2 yrs. That's 960 hours- again after a BA.Your 40 hrs is risible. Why bother? Continuing to point out the obvious, the justices have been filtered by years of actual experience. Both their intellects and their conduct has been visible for decades. The idea that most Joe/Josephine Blows will possess the mental/emotional skill set necessary is a pipe dream, imho.


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