Justice the Indonesian Vs the American Way

(A posting on justice the Indonesian vs the American way)

Justice for one party can be injustice or unjustness for the other: The following is the difference between Indonesian lawyers and their counterparts, American lawyers, in defending their clients.

In the Indonesian justice system, the final authority in the court to decide on the verdict goes to the judge. Therefore, a lawyer or a legal counsel’s job is to argue directly to the judge to prove that his client is not guilty or partly guilty, doing so with all the evidence and proofs he has at his disposal. It is during this legal proceeding that it is possible that the legal counsel may (read: ‘mungkin‘, not ‘boleh‘) influence the judge ‘one way or another’ to decree in favor of him and his client, this especially given the nature and nurture of the client.

Hotman Paris Hutapea, “the freest lawyer in Indonesia”, “has never denied gaming the system.” He remarks: “If I say I’m a clean lawyer, I’ll be a hypocrite, that’s all I can say,” he said. “And if other lawyers say they are clean, they will go to jail, they’ll go to hell” (Perhaps with the swearwords ‘go to hell’ he does not mean ‘go to Hell’ literally, but rather he does not care about those lawyers saying that they are clean).

In the American legal system, on the contrary, the ultimate authority in the court to give the verdict lies with the jury; the judge practically simply facilitates the legal proceeding, maintaining order. As such, a lawyer or a legal counsel seeks to directly convince the jury to accept that his client is not guilty, arguing so still with all the evidence and proofs he has with him.

Though during the legal proceeding the jury is made to stay clean and clear of all influences that may affect their deliberation on the final verdict, in the beginning the jury could be selected in such a way that they would listen, think, analyze, and give the final verdict in favor of the legal counsel and his client.

Nevertheless, in both cases it can be seen that an advantage can be directed to the client that each legal counsel represents. The difference is that in the former the legal counsel may approach the judge to influence him, the practice of which can end up in a collusion that may involve a certain amount of money depending on the nature and nurture of the client and the case against him at hand; in the latter, the legal counsel can argue the best he can to convince the jury that has been deliberately selected in the first place—only that direct bribery to them to influence them would be impossible.

The said advantage to the client brought back to focus, it can be summed up that wrong can be made ‘right’ or ‘half right’ by way of bribery, convincing argument, or convincing argument coupled with bribery. As such, real justice may not prevail. But so long as the verdict of ‘not guilty’ or minimal punishment for the client is reached, the unjustness only goes to the party his lawyer does not represent, anyway. So he says, I must conclude.


Antoni, F. 2020. Being a Devil’s Advocate to Exercise Arguing Skills. Article available here.

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