We have all heard of the situation that we find ourselves in concerning our nation's infrastructural decay. There are roads with more potholes than pavement, bridges that literally have cement chunks falling from them, as well as water and sewer lines that are barely able to keep up with the demand. This situation is apparently a result of building one of the most impressive infrastructures in the world and then never doing anything to maintain it. We are now faced with a system in great stress due to long-term neglect.
The issue of maintenance is not limited to infrastructures that are made of up metal, asphalt and cement. It is true with any infrastructure; if it is not maintained, one day you find that the whole thing is crumbling all around us.
Due to this overall philosophy, we are starting to see some crumbling in our judicial infrastructure. We might not see cement chunks falling from the pillars of justice, but one might argue that dullness is present and those pillars in need of a fresh polish.
The scales are still in place, but recent cases have shown leaning and swaying of those very scales that have always maintained an even balance. The gavels that once sounded a mighty echo through the halls of justice have sounded more like a mere thud as of late. Our system, which has been the shining example of how justice should be dolled out, is simply starting to show some stress that needs to be given proper attention.
The maintenance needed for our justice system is unlike the maintenance needed for a traditional infrastructure. Traditional structures need constant hands-on attention to ensure that they are functioning properly. Justice needs the direct opposite of that approach. We don't need hands on, we need hands off.
But over the years, we have seen a series of events and manipulations to the system to make it serve justice as described by the one doing the tinkering. Justice is not found on a case-by-case basis, and it is not interpreted situationally. Justice is justice is justice.
It does not matter who is reading it or who is speaking it. It does not matter who is prescribing the justice or receiving the justice. Justice is constant. Justice is unwavering. It does not fluctuate with the stock market and it does not bow to public demand. It does not know the difference between a Democrat and a Republican, and is unconcerned about whose shoulders the black robe should fall upon. It truly does not care if a robe is involved at all.
Justice is a literal interpretation of right and wrong, of guilt and presumed innocence, as prescribed in its laws. It is truly neither fair nor unfair, but simply the end result of an action that requires another action for justice to prevail. It is said to be blind, but when practiced in proper fashion, its view is panoramic, 360 degrees, and totally omnipotent. It sees in amazing Technicolor and can extend its view around corners and through barriers of all kinds.
Justice, for the pure sake and goal of justice, will survive any storm or circumstance when allowed to function within its proper realm. It is through the hands and manipulations of various doctrines, ideologies, philosophical or political mandates, or other biases that are all foreign to its mandate, that have caused the stress that we see today.
This stress is more and more apparent. It is seen through decisions being made that defy any form of justice and without any semblance of common sense; through verdicts being rendered that are based on a variety of pre-existing issues and mindsets that have little to do with the evidence presented; trials being consumed with an overabundance of media coverage under the guise of being open to the public, but whose real public interest is tallied in ratings and not the seeking of that which is true; Interpretations from the bench that ignore the basic intent of the law, but are a creation of how one person believes the law should have been written; a series of quasi-legislating in lieu of simply presiding over a balanced, fair and unbiased quest of that which is right.
We have juries that step into a box where the truth is sought, only to later discover that it was untruthfulness that allowed them to have ever been granted a seat. Jurors whose sole purpose is to thwart a system that they believe to be tainted, albeit through their own tainted views. A series of jurors, one after another, who swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, only to tell that truth as they feel necessary in order to achieve a secondary purpose that has little or nothing to do with real justice but only the justice that they seek.
Jurors' life experiences should be used in a positive manner, but instead these experiences are used to for redemption, revenge and some irrational and illegible concept of protectionism toward certain demographic groups.
The infrastructural integrity of our nation's judicial system is most certainly at risk. There is not a patch, clamp or adhesive that can hold it together. It is not a matter of refitting, rewiring or structural reinforcing that can make it more stable. It is not a system that allows for older parts of it to be demolished in exchange of a newer, more modern version. It is a concept that will only survive when attempts to change it are halted. It only needs for the hands of those who attempt to mold it into their own incredible versions of justice to be put back into their own petulant and self serving lined pockets.
Then, and only then, will this great system be restored to that shining light that has been visible for centuries to those who seek justice. It will then, once again, be that system of justice that is easily recognized and defined uniformly by all who come into contact with it. Until then, our system of justice will be nothing more than a tarnished heap of scales and chains, held loosely by twisted fingers from a sullen and unrecognizable lady in a stained gown, stumbling through once hallowed, but now faded halls that will never find true balance.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and are not those of the Gwinnett District Attorney's Office.
Stan Hall is the director of Gwinnett County's Victim Witness Program. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.