Return to Glossary (at this point)
The "settling of accounts" for past misdeeds.
Justice and our justice system are based on
the premise that a grievance of the past can be
undone by an opposite action in the presentwhich
is largely an illusion. |
Justice is roughly "an eye for an eye," although we aren't supposed to say that. Murderers get life in prison. Thieves lose their freedom. Injured people get compensated for what they lost (plus all their "pain and suffering," of course). Justice is usually crude and tends toward brutish overkill. It may deter some future crimes and address our emotional need for retribution, but it rarely does much to repair underlying problems.
You should not expect much justice from Family Court, which is more concerned with repair and rehabilitation. Family Court tries to give distressed people a way to move on with their lives, a goal that is often incompatible with justice.
Here are some of the miscarriages of justice you may find in Family Court:
The alternative to justice is problem solving. You want to find the underlying problem and address it, rather than just punishing the overt behavior. This is more complicated than justice but more effective in the long run.
While Family Court might not give you justice, it can give you a workable solution to whatever problem brought you here. It may not be the best solution, but it is a solution, which is probably the most you can expect from any government agency. You got yourself into a jamsomething you couldn't handle yourselfand the court is trying to get you out with as little bloodshed as possible. You should be grateful for whatever solution you get.
A more practical concern is whether this person is going to kill again. Although this factor is considered in criminal sentencing, it involves a whole different kind of reasoning than the legal one. Redemption is much more complicated than justice. You have to consider the circumstances of the crime, the frame of mind of the perpetrator and whether he has already been changed by what has happened. You have to see the whole picture of his life, not just the events on the night in question. Sometimes effective redemption involves not punishing the perpetrator even when justice says you should.
Why does it make people feel better when they afflict the same pain on others that they have received themselves? They seem to believe that punishment will set things right in the world. It is God's justice, they think, where all sins are accounted for in the end and every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
That's not the only kind of morality, however, and even God is supposed to have a broader view. The Christian God, as I understand Him, could even forgive Hitler.
Forgiveness. That's something justice can't deal with.
There is a lot more to life than settling accounts. Someone has to build those accounts to begin with. Justice, even if essential to society, is a tearing-down process. If an unfairness exists, then one party is cut down to the level of the other. Justice doesn't build anything. It doesn't create love or leadership or make bureaucracies work. It doesn't give people inspiration. The best it can do is excise a cancer by removing a lung or a limb.
Justice solves problems with sledgehammers. Got a problem? Hit it with a sledgehammer. Someone commits a crime? Hit them with a sledgehammer. Sledgehammers work for some jobs, but you can't build anything with them.
Society relies on the illusion of justice to keep people in line, and it workskind of. People don't drive too fast because they are afraid of getting a ticket. That's not the same, however, as driving a reasonable and safe speed based on the conditions of the road and weather. Justice never gets that subtle.
People like justice because it is easy and, in the short run, relative cheap. Just hang 'em from a tree and justice is done. Real repair is a lot less satisfying and is much harder to sell to the electorate.
"Spare the rod and spoil the child," says Joe Voter, demanding, as he usually does, harsher sentences for everyone, including juveniles. Joe Voter, if you haven't noticed, is an idiot, and our justice system to a certain extent reflects that idiocy. In criminal court, the demand for retribution usually takes precedence over the long-term good of society.
Only one part of the court system has escaped: Family Court. It operates in its own little world according to its own rules, in secrecy or equivalent obscurity, and justice is quietly ignored when appropriate.
The events of Family Court rarely make it into the news media, because they are too small and personal. Who cares about divorce if there isn't a celebrity or murder-for-hire involved? Almost everyone will pass through Family Court at some point in their lives, no doubt with some frustration, but it is all forgotten quickly and is replaced in consciousness by the sensational crimes at the big courthouse downtown.
Occasionally, Joe Voter may appear in Family Court as a victim of juvenile crime. He demands, as usual, the maximum sentence for the perpetrator, but the court will probably not comply. Instead of prison, the defendant may get probation and counseling, or he may get to go to "camp" in the mountains.
"You call that justice?" mutter the victim as he leaves the courtroom.
No, it's not justice. It's something else.
Return to Glossary (at this point)
Top of This Page
Visit Glenn's other websites: Glenn-Campbell.com, RoamingPhotos.com, KilroyCafe.com and GlennsDrivingService.com
©2005-07, Glenn Campbell
This is an independent and unofficial website.
All opinions expressed are those of the webmaster or the person quoted.
Information conveyed here is accurate to the best of our knowledge but is not guaranteed.
You should seek your own independent verification of critical information.
As of Aug. 2008, this site is no longer active or maintained.
Total page hits at FamilyCourtChronicles.com: