Everyone has a stake in the justice system. It affects all of society, from a person in small claims court to the prisoner facing execution. The legacy of the United States, as granted by our creator and enshrined in our Constitution, is that American citizens enjoy the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is our gift to civilization.
Thomas Jefferson said trial by a jury of one’s peers is the only anchor through which a government can be held accountable to the principles of its Constitution. This bedrock remains more important than the right to vote.
The Greeks gave the world democracy. America placed its core value on its commitment to those three elemental human rights that no government could abolish or diminish. Dedication to every citizen’s right to pursue them is the foundation of the justice system and the platform upon which all aspects of modern society stand.
At the courthouse, the witness has to take an oath and answer the questions. The parties have to produce proof. Everything is based on the fact that the participants, judge and attorneys have a sacred obligation to the highest ideals. Jurors swear an oath to be fair, the witness swears to be honest. These are not ivory tower abstractions, but a process that ensures, informs and protects everyone in a functionally free society.
With today’s instant communication, facts are lost to noise. Politicians seeking transient powers have spin rooms. For every truth there is deflection by a consultant or special interest. Lobbyists talk to elected officials without limits, while citizens may receive five minutes to speak before any public body.
At the courthouse, the reflective thought of 12 neighbors holds the power. The case facts are determined; the law is read. Everyone is equal. Jurors are asked to put themselves in the shoes of both sides, understand all sides of the story, and arrive at the truth. That determination triumphs, even if the judge, opposing or defense lawyers steadfastly disagree.
Unfairness, error, and dreadful injustice happen, particularly, the conviction of an innocent man. The system is set up to be as foolproof as possible and no other institution of government is nearly as accurate or wise in its decisions. It is at the courthouse that our best ideals coexist with human frailty.
Dr. Martin Luther King said that love is the pinnacle of all of our faith. Justice is love correcting that which works against the right. Standing beside love is always justice. Like faith, you cannot see it, but it must exist.
Trust the law. History teaches that the passions of today are ephemeral, but the fundamental of ensuring each of our lives, liberty and pursuits of happiness reside in a stubborn and unyielding demand that legal fairness is a realistic and achievable process.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lewis O. Unglesby, founder of Unglesby Law Firm LLC, is a nationally acclaimed specialist in jury trials with emphasis on personal injury and criminal defense. For more than 32 years, he has been recognized by Best Lawyers in America, Martindale-Hubbell, American Board of Trial Advocates, and Super Lawyers. His work has led to the abolition of three-wheelers, installation of safety devices on forklifts, and recognition of diseases directly related to chemical exposure. He has been profiled on Good Morning America, 20/20, The New York Times, The Times Picayune, Business Report, The Shreveport Journal and Tiger Rag.