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For the Sake of Justice PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Editorials
Tuesday, 17 October 2006 22:28

According to The Oxford English Dictionary, "justice" is defined as "maintenance of legal, social, or moral principles by the exercise of authority or power; assignment of deserved reward or punishment," "the quality or fact of being just; (the principle of) just dealing or conduct; integrity; impartiality, fairness," and "conformity (of an action or thing) to moral right or to reason, truth, or fact."

The above definitions are foundational to our democracy. When these principles fail on any level, whether in our national arena, district courts, or local civil-rights commissions, this failure contributes to the overall erosion of our system.

Americans place complete faith in our judicial system because it is supposed to be the final authority based upon scrupulous adherence to the law, evidence, and impartial judgment. We trust judges to find the truth in matters through unbiased consideration of all sides with relentless due diligence of all the evidence.

More and more, Americans are learning that some judges vacate this solemn duty and administer judgment without applying these standards, leaving themselves open to criticism, but more importantly effecting the decay of justice, eventually, if allowed to continue, causing our entire republic to fail.

It is no small task for judges to read through cases. The amount of documentation can be daunting, the language cumbersome, the laws that may or may not apply convoluted, and the legal cartwheeling (for lack of a better word) confusing. But at the end of the day, the awesome responsibility of a judge to be thorough and fair is incontrovertible. His or her decisions impact the individual lives of those whose cases are being judged, and nothing on this earth has more power over the quality of lives than this.

No matter how large or small the case, the responsibility remains the same. There are very few things that break my heart more than when justice is soured by ignorance, incompetence, or corruption. This deliberate manipulation of justice is the worst sin against society. Not only are lives negatively impacted, most times with no recourse, forever, but also all those who know the truth live with the despair of knowing justice is not a certainty.

The "justice system" is not an abstraction, but a process administered by human beings - men and women educated in the law, either appointed or elected, to conduct the process on behalf of humanity. The system includes attorneys and their staffs, whose job it is to prosecute and defend citizens. The long-held American judicial policy is "innocent until proven guilty." We have a whole Constitution and Bill of Rights devoted to our civil protections and freedom.

Unfortunately, in America attorneys are paid regardless of who wins or loses. In England, by contrast, the losing side pays both attorneys. This makes frivolous lawsuits practically nonexistent. In this country, there is no real incentive for attorneys to win; they are paid in any event. Billable hours override passion for winning in too many cases.

The adage "Your case is only as good as your attorney" is true enough, but even truer is "Justice is only as good as the judge." The efforts of attorneys are useless if the judge is unable or unwilling to properly and adequately process it all.

Americans have afforded great respect, even reverence, to judges and many attorneys. Admittedly, nothing inspires me more than a righteous judge who takes his/her job with the enormity of profound responsibility that it commands. And nothing captures my admiration and respect more than an attorney who does the same. These men and women deserve to be recognized and pedestaled for such stalwart commitments to justice.

For those who choose the lesser road, they infect the entire system and should somehow be banned from it. So precious is our trust in American justice that we can ill afford its abolitionists: those who abuse the power provided them through our justice system (judges, attorneys, police, civic commissioners, mayors and city councils, county boards, state and national legislators, and the presidential administration).

Rewriting laws, for the purpose of national security, that govern civil rights leaving individuals less protected is a slippery slope for this country. (Refer to the newly signed bill allowing the military to prosecute suspects under revised rules.) It gives the potential for the abuse of power to become monstrous in our society. It is our civil rights that have always set us apart from the rest of the world, and made us great throughout history. It is unimaginable to me that we would sacrifice even a sentence of that which has made us the most powerful global governance.

Boiled down to its essence, whether written or not, justice is served by people. Individuals make or break it. Even so, erosion of the system can only occur when citizens collectively ignore the improprieties, which causes a lowering of our standards, eventually leading to widespread civic apathy. Once enough civic apathy sets in, freedom is doomed. Freedom has always been mankind's most honorable, hard-fought, and costly mission, so taking it for granted is a terrible betrayal to it.

We will have an opportunity to shake apathy off on November 7, by voting in the midterm elections. Look to the Reader in the next few weeks for important information about candidates, policy, local commissions, and court decisions that deserve scrutiny lest justice be abandoned.

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