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The Assembly Line of Justice

January 17, 2011

“No one believes that the justice system can be either perfect or pure because judges, lawyers, jurors, witnesses and government officials are human beings. Nonetheless, justice must be, as much as possible, an impartial and unbiased application of the law to the facts, which means that those who serve the law must be the best we have.”

What a true statement. Human beings, be they judges, lawyers, or jurors, are instruments in the Anglo-American justice system. This system is not a robotic machine, but instead an assembly line of people, each with an important role to play. And if our justice system is flawed, it is flawed only because we, as human beings, are flawed. Lawyers feel the pressure of the expectations of their clients. Judges feel the pressure of getting elected or getting the appointment, depending on the system. Jurors feel the pressure of attitudes and beliefs created by the media and other special interests.

Even the most successful players in our justice system feel these pressures. In the 1980s, trial lawyer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs did very well for himself by collecting millions for Asbestos victims. By the 1990s, Mr. Scruggs had made an even bigger name for himself by representing the State of Mississippi against the Tobacco industry. Despite these tremendous accomplishments, Mr. Scruggs was not immune to the pressure of great expectations, as Ben Toledano notes in his book review of The Fall of The House of Zeus: The Rise and Ruin of America’s Most Powerful Trial Lawyer.

Despite our flawed nature, achieving justice requires an impartial and unbiased application of the law to the facts. To achieve this goal, each person on the assembly line must strive to set aside personal motivations, such as greed, ambition and a “win at any cost” attitude, so that a blindfolded lady justice may weigh the facts presented upon the scales of the law. “Strive” is the operative word, because no one can be completely objective. When those on the assembly line allow personal motivations to outweigh the impartial application of the law to the facts, lady justice’s blindfold is removed and our system fails. It happens more than it should, but there is no perfect system. Regardless, the very best from our society must work on this assembly line. We should continue to use our best efforts to make it as fair as humanly possible, knowing that we will never achieve perfection.

By: Greg Cusimano and Eric Wood