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Law Versus Compassion

compassion versus legal justice

JUSTICE IS NOT JUST PROCEDURAL

As stated in my previous blog some attorneys take the position that justice is two folds: 1) procedural justice; and 2) substantive justice, which requires compassion. About a year ago I saw this concept in one of Alan Dershowitz’s book.

TAKING THE STAND: MY LIFE IN THE LAW (2013) BY ALAN DERSHOWITZ

Alan Dershowitz mentioned a time when he was a law clerk to Judge David Bazelon. He told Judge Bazelon about a part of the torah that says Justice, justice you must pursue. When Judge Bazelon asked why is the word justice mentioned twice. Dershowitz replied that no word of the Torah is mentioned twice. One of the rabbis interpretation that he proposed at his bar mitzvah was that “the first [justice] meant legal justice, while the second meant compassionate justice.” Judge Bazelon then replied “compassion must come before law.”

WHICH TAKES PRECEDENT IN OUR LEGAL SYSTEM

I was recently at a criminal defense luncheon where a judge mentioned in a speech on how he believed that the formality of the process gave rise to the confidence in the ruling of the courts. However there was no mention on the importance of compassion. While this is not proof of anything. Our criminal justice system has done pretty good job on providing procedural due process, but it appears to be lacking in providing substantive justice and compassion to the people that appear before the court.

The lack of substantive rights in our justice system has created a broken criminal justice system. The United States leads the world in virtually every category of high incarceration. On top of that defendants are having a hard time reintegrating themselves back into society. Often times their criminal record prevents them from becoming full and equal members of society.  The unintended consequences that stem from a criminal conviction after a defendant has completed their sentence will often haunt them the rest of their life. For more about a lack of substantive rights and compassion see Mass Incarceration: A Lack of Substantive Rights