SCOT BELLAVIA: Justice Will Never Satisfy


Full justice will never be realized in this world. Justice is the meting out of what is deserved for good or bad deeds. In a society, good and bad must be determined by something greater than the whole, transcending the authority of its leaders and constituents.

The only alternative would be for the majority to decide what is right and wrong. In that case, the majority opinion would change by the generation. So conceivably, what grandparents said was right is wrong to the grandchildren, and vice versa. In an ideal world, the doling out of justice is not based on each person’s own understanding of right and wrong but in truths that transcend time, geography, and culture.

However, we don’t live in an ideal world and it can be difficult to find and agree on what rights and wrongs transcend time, geography, and culture. This is why the American judicial system, and its foreign equivalents, is imperfect. It aims to resolve what can’t be measured, namely human life and experience. It calls upon greater authority while basing its decisions on cultural precedent and humanly-contrived morality.

This morality impedes true justice because people believe that not all sins are equally damning. To be sure, sins have varying degrees of impact on others and ourselves. It is thus sensible to dissuade the public from committing the more heinous acts as they cause greater damage. Even still, all sins deserve punishment, even if they only affect the perpetrator.

The variables that play into a court ruling include legal precedent, facts of the case, members of the jury, the presiding judge, expectation of the general population, witness testimony, and adeptness of the attorneys. Even with this less-than-comprehensive list, these determining factors are not rooted in solid black and white and so play into inadequate sentences.

A cynic would say that a mother who takes her son’s murderer to court, should she win, is being paid to shut up about the case. Naturally, she will never forget her son and any amount of money will not replace the pain the defendant caused her. She seeks to see as equal as possible the amount of harm put on the murderer for retribution. She wants to put him in jail so he cannot cause other people to hurt the way she has.

However, this murderer’s sentence does not prevent all murders from happening and her pain remains, though lessened by time. Similarly, a serial child rapist and murderer can be given back-to-back life sentences. Obviously, it is impossible to serve that in total so the sentence only exists to make an example to others in the community, to both discourage potential criminals and uphold the value of human life and dignity. These are extreme cases but show the inadequacy of human law to seek atonement for grievous sins.

On a “lesser” scale, divorce courts attempt to make the separation as fair as possible. There are scores of research proving the potentially irreparable damage divorce does on children. To a different degree, it negatively affects the husband and wife. Financial strains and bitterness can come between former spouses. Visitation rights and splitting the property in half does not properly address the emotional hurt done to the family. Again, humanity’s concept of fairness is inadequate.

In part, marches and protests of recent months attempt to drive the law to establish morality. The Supreme Court, and most of the judicial branch, was established as a non-elected branch to minimize the amount of political pressure that could persuade a justice in making his or her decisions. Their decisions were always intended to be based on something unchanging rather than seeking reelection.

It is unrealistic to expect legislation to change the hearts and minds of Americans. Larger changes are being demanded, though necessary, in the name of people whose cases, had they not received the amount of national attention they have, would be textbook.

The politicization of events in an effort to have government legislate and enforce right and wrong requires the intentional omission of the humanity of each incident and a disregard for factual evidence. Human-served justice can be brought about by raising awareness of the event, but that needs to be followed by qualified experts and the authorities being held accountable.

Fighting for justice is completely appropriate because it is necessary in this imperfect world. In that fight, we must remember that man-made decrees will not satisfy the emotional brokenness or fully rehabilitate the depravity of people. We must cling to absolutes and demand accountability of leadership and ourselves. We must see each other as neighbors and friends, not stock stereotypes of opposition.

Scot Bellavia

Scot Bellavia