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By Father Charles Irvin

What do we mean by 'justice'?

There are a number of definitions for justice, depending upon what kind of justice is being talked about. Justice is fairness. Justice is proper conviction for a crime. Justice is not retribution, nor is it vengeance. Justice is a balancing of equities. Justice is rendering what is due to the disputing parties, the complainant and defendant alike. Even that balancing may not be true justice, because there will be questions as to who determines “what is due.”

A criminal trial is not a search for justice, nor a search for truth, nor for vengeance. No. A criminal trial searches for only one thing, guilt beyond a reasonable doubt based on credible and admissible evidence.

If you are speaking of “justice,” don’t seek it in a courtroom. A young lawyer once famously asked Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes to give justice. To which Justice Holmes replied: “This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice.”

The law is concerned with rules of procedure, rules of admissible evidence and providing a fair and impartial forum in which the litigants may ethically argue their cases. This is what a court of law offers, nothing more.

Philosophers, moralists and theologians seek justice, try to define justice and promote the search for it. Courts do not.

All that I have said here proves that there must be a God. Without God, we wouldn’t even be talking about justice.