Any cursory search around people who have spoken of justice would bring you to a roster not to be taken lightly: Malcolm X, Winston Churchill, Aristotle, Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, and more. Before now if someone asked me who have I read about that has spoken most about justice, the answer would have been ‘Batman’.
Yes I know it’s hard to take me seriously with Batman staring at you like that, but bear with me here. The point I’m making is that for me, and likely for my peers, we all had an idea of what ‘Justice’ meant to us before beginning our foray into the world of academic Law. For many of us I imagine that ideals and opinions revolving around justice are beginning to evolve, or change completely as study continues, but we’ll always have unique ideas of what justice looks like and what kind of justice we value most. Whether it’s criminal justice, social justice, righteous(biblical) justice, the ‘Batman’ flavour of justice or any other form we will all have unique thoughts and opinions on exactly what is ‘just’ and what is ‘unjust’.
One thing I did find particularly interesting was the principle types of justice, in particular retributive and restorative justice. Our textbook ‘The New Lawyer’ refers to the application of restorative justice in an Adelaide school dealing with bullying. Bullying has been a more prominent topic of late and it appears that the school had considerable success with this approach. What I do wonder is how beneficial the application of restorative practices to children and teenagers will be for them in the long term – will the short term success the school has seen translate to long term benefits to the outlooks on the futures of said students? It appears research was only done assessing the short term benefits at the school – hopefully we see later studies along this train of though.
I found it of important note also the the point that legality and justice are not one in the same. It is a concept that I feel I will struggle to get my head around for some time. It may very well be a source of much judicial activism however – the idea of a ‘just’ legal system is highly sought after. As a judge, if making a decision within the strict letter of the law would be unjust, venturing into the realm of judicial activism certainly would be a tempting path. The debate appears to be still raging on however as to whether or not such a decision would be appropriate, and can get rather meta. Is the idea of making a just decision that is not legally correct, unjust in and of itself? I wouldn’t presume to have the answer to that.