Vail Daily column: On law and justice | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: On law and justice

As of this writing, 42 percent of the 535 members of the U. S. Congress and 1.3 million individual practitioners are said to have American Bar Association membership.

According to the ABA, its mission is “to serve equally its members, its profession, and the public by defending liberty and delivering justice … ”

What, then, is justice?

“Advocates of the ‘Divine Command Theory’ argue that ‘justice,’ indeed, the whole of morality, is the authoritative command of God.” (Wikipedia)

In that America’s original state papers contain references to God, while appropriately avoiding the contentious subject of religion, it seems correct, therefore, to speak of “justice” as properly falling within the purview of divine authority; and so, the Divine Command Theory.

Taking, for example, as a point of reference, the Eighth Commandment of the Old Testament (of God): “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

“For there are six things that the Lord strongly dislikes, seven that are an abomination to Him … a lying tongue … a false witness who breathes lies …”

According to Thomas Aquinas in his “Treatise On Law”: “Laws were made so that in fear of them, human audacity might be held in check, the innocent might be safeguarded in the midst of wickedness, and the dread of punishment might prevent the wicked from doing harm.”

Aquinas quotes Augustine who says: “The force of law depends upon the extent of its justice.”

“In human affairs, a thing is said to be just, from being right, according to the rule of reason.”

“But, the first rule of reason is the Law of Nature.”

“Thus, if at any point, it (human law) deflects from the Law of Nature, it (human law) is no longer a law, but a perversion of law.”

“Conscience” is defined as the moral goodness of one’s own conduct, intentions or character under obligation to do right or good; sensitive regard for fairness or justice.

One then asks: With all of the supposed legal talent in America, why has so much gone awry?

Do writers and defenders of human law who knowingly damage, destroy or end innocent human life while in advancement of their personal view, or their client, knowingly ruin their own conscience, and perjure themselves before God and his law?

In a lecture delivered at the Aspen Institute in 1973 entitled “The Unity of Man and the Unity of Truth,” Mortimer Adler stated: “In the field of veracity and prevarication, we tell the truth when we say that we believe or think, and we tell a lie when we say the opposite of what we think or believe.”

This led Adler to quip: “A liar is a person who ‘willfully’ misplaces his ontological predicates, putting “is” where he should put “is not,” or the reverse.”

And in this matter of truth (and lies), one must emphasize the adverb “willfully.”

Now two conditions which are in opposition to one another cannot each satisfy the condition of truth.

Thus, truth alone is that condition which produces justice.

Truth is defined as the state of being the case; the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact, or reality.

Thus, in the field of human law (and its adversarial system), suspension of individual conscience, either by attorney or client (which denies truth), is not permitted while in necessary satisfaction of obedience to the superior, and infallible, natural and divine laws.

For each (counselor and client) is answerable to the author and judge of eternal law.

And eternity is a long time to be wrong.

By nearly popular majority agreement, America’s national Congress presently governs in a state of hostile disorder, with its marketplace having become increasingly corrupt, exhibiting little regard for the common working person.

In that members of the American Bar operate with powerful influence at the forefront of politics and economics (in and out of government), its governing body must principally be held accountable for the present decline of America’s common good.

Upon returning to the ABA’s mission statement: “To serve … the public by defending liberty and delivering justice,” and in view of the decline in ethical standards which the American citizen senses and experiences within his nation’s political, economic and legal system, it seems appropriate to call into question the quality of personal upbringing and early education which aspiring members bring to their law schools.

Perhaps of even greater concern is the possible absence of moral and intellectual values among law school faculties.

And so, in light of the foregoing, wisdom would dictate that the governing body of the ABA might reassess itself concerning its stated mission and the present behavior among its membership.

Art Allard

Vail