Home > Journals > WMLR > Vol. 56 (2014-2015) > Iss. 6 (2015)
William & Mary Law Review
This Article offers the foundational account of systemic lying from a definitional and theoretical perspective. Systemic lying involves the cooperation of multiple actors in the legal system who lie or violate their oaths across cases for a consistent reason that is linked to their conception of justice. It becomes a functioning mechanism within the legal system and changes the operation of the law as written. By identifying systemic lying, this Article challenges the assumption that all lying in the legal system is the same. It argues that systemic lying poses a particular threat to the legal system. This means that we should know how to identify it and then try to address it once we see it happening. Accordingly, this Article presents a guide to identifying a set of symptoms that are the hallmarks of systemic lying and posits a unitary cause, although not a one-size-fits-all solution. Through a series of case studies, it shows that systemic lying emerges as a saving mechanism that mediates between culture and law. Rather than allow the law to take its course and deliver what would be perceived as unjust outcomes, participants lie and preserve the façade of a system that delivers results consonant with popular moral intuitions. Systemic lying is both persistent and powerful because it achieves a type of licitness that individual lies or underground deception lack. At the same time, it poses a unique threat to the legitimacy of the system by signifying that truth is not paramount in the courtroom.