Michael Douglas portrays an idealistic L.A. County superior court judge who finds himself in a cabal of judges known as THE STAR CHAMBER, in this 1983 film of the same name directed and co-written by Peter Hyams (OUTLAND; CAPRICORN ONE; 2010). His character is frustrated about letting criminals go scot-free on charges ranging from kidnapping to murder because of technicalities; even though the evidence would clearly put these thugs on ice, improper procedures by the police force Douglas to obey the letter of the law and dismiss them.
But he gets a look into this Star Chamber cabal from his mentor (Hal Holbrook, good as ever), where he and seven other judges, plus Douglas now, pass judgment on and later find and execute the criminals. In essence, this Star Chamber consists of judges so fed up with the System that they resort to vigilantism. Douglas, however, doesn't see this particular cabal as the answer, and he has to struggle with this dichotomy.
In a twisted sort of way, this seems like the 1973 Dirty Harry film MAGNUM FORCE as reimagined by John Grisham (though this was years before Grisham was ever widely known). But I think the film, though imperfect in places, makes it clear that a private cabal of judges deciding on the violent punishment of criminals who slip through on technicalities is no better (and realistically far worse) than a flawed prosecution in a real court of law. We may think the justice system is slanted so heavily in favor of the criminals, but that's only because that one day, through some weird twists of fate, we too may find ourselves in the position of the criminals.
Douglas and Holbrook are well-matched here, and Hyams' direction, aided by his co-screenwriter Roderick Taylor, brings out some good points in a somewhat flawed but otherwise well-done courtroom drama that is in need of a revival.