(American Greatness) -- What is justice? This complicated question is the subject of much study by philosophers, lawyers, clergy, and laymen. It is often easier to determine the metes and bounds of justice from what it is not than to define what it is in the abstract. Unfair procedures, treating the rich differently from the poor, racial discrimination, or the infusion of bribery and perjury into criminal procedures strike almost everyone as forms of injustice. Likewise, light punishments for serious crimes or excessive punishments for minor ones all have the stench of injustice. In criminal matters, justice chiefly requires that the guilty are punished and the innocent go free.
This understanding stems from the traditions of western justice, particularly the Anglo-American variety, which places a premium on the rights of the individual and the importance of fair procedures. This is why our Constitution allows one the right to remain silent and prohibits the use of illegally-obtained evidence, while permitting the accused a defense counsel and a trial by jury. These procedures were the products of centuries of experimentation. They reflect the concern not only with justice but also the fear of the “run-amuck” majority, i.e., the mob.
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