Of all the professions claiming to be based on reason rather than revelation, only law makes a positive virtue of refusing to correct its own mistakes. We love it when an appellate decision recites a string of outrageous trial errors but finds them all harmless because the defendant was guilty anyway. As if only innocent people should get a fair trial.
What if doctors were like that? “Okay, so we cut off the wrong leg. But it’s clearly harmless because you’d be one-legged even if we’d cut off the right one.”
What if air traffic controllers were like that? “With so many planes, of course we can’t be expected to land every one safely. So, half of them crash – at least we have finality.”
What if plumbers were like that?
[Scene: RESPECTABLE HOUSEHOLDER in his house with water rising from the basement. He frantically dials the phone]
RH: Hello, Vesuvio Plumbing? This is the Rehnquist residence. All the pipes have burst! I’m standing up to my ankles in water!
VP: We finished installing them yesterday.
RH: That’s my point! You really messed up!
VP: You’re entitled to fair plumbing, not perfect plumbing. You didn’t complain when we installed the pipes. So you can’t be heard to complain now.
RH: Of course I can, you can hear me perfectly well! I demand that you come back and fix the pipes!
VP: We view all pipes in the light most favorable to the plumber. Which is pitch darkness. Applying the presumption of regularity, pipes are presumed to carry water from one place to another. Leaks, if any, are harmless.
RH: Harmless! I’m up to my knees in water. And I’m on the third floor!
VP: Our paperwork says, “Job successfully completed.” We see no reason to disturb that determination. After all, the plumber saw and heard the pipes.
RH: Glub, glub, glub.
VP: (with satisfaction) Yessiree, we guarantee our customers finality.