Contemplating the Failure of Our Attempts at Justice

Even when we strive in good faith with our best efforts, we often fail.


“Like a pregnant woman who writhes and cries out in her pangs when she is near to giving birth, so were we because of you, O Lord; we were pregnant, we writhed, but we have given birth to wind. We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth….” (Isaiah 26:17-18 ESV)

These words were written approximately in the 700’s BC by the prophet, Isaiah. Yet, there are as relevant today as they were almost 3000 years ago.

That is my opinion, of course. What do I know?

As an attorney, I am in an unique position to speak to the American system of justice. I have seen it operate from the inside out, and I have participated in it for going on 30 years, so I think I have sufficient insight to be able to provide a well-informed opinion on the subject.

I was intrigued, even stricken by a bit of awe, in law school as I studied the history of American jurisprudence (with its roots in English common law, but for Louisiana, which has roots in the French legal system of justice). The principals, which build on themselves going back to ancient times, and the care and thought that informed American Jurisprudence is something for which I developed quite an appreciation. Many of those principals were, in turn, developed in view of the ancient texts that we call the Bible.

I graduated from law school at the age of 31, having much “real world” experience under my belt before law school, but I was filled, nevertheless, with the kind of naivete and idealism that is informed by the theory but is untried in the practice.

I have tried hard to carry with me the ideals of justice that inform our legal system, and I have fought for almost 30 years, now, to implement them to the extent that they are within my control of influence. Unfortunately, one person is not able to move those wheels of justice that grind very far off the course on which they doggedly and often very bluntly drive forward leaving casualties of justice in the great ruts they create.

Relative to current events, a 2018 report to the UN on the criminal justice system in the United States reveals some gross disparities in the outcomes. “African-American adults are 5.9 times as likely to be incarcerated than whites and Hispanics are 3.1 times as likely.” The report summarizes the disparities in this way:

“The source of such disparities is deeper and more systemic than explicit racial discrimination. The United States in effect operates two distinct criminal justice systems: one for wealthy people and another for poor people and people of color. The wealthy can access a vigorous adversary system replete with constitutional protections for defendants. Yet the experiences of poor and minority defendants within the criminal justice system often differ substantially from that model due to a number of factors, each of which contributes to the overrepresentation of such individuals in the system.”

Racial disparities in our criminal justice system are only one area in which our system of justice fails to provide the justice it promises. On the ground level, I saw the failure of justice nearly every time I stepped into a courtroom in thousands of ways, big and small.

Continue reading “Contemplating the Failure of Our Attempts at Justice”