Magazine article Real Estate Issues

The Myth of Moral Justice: Why Our Legal System Fails to Do What's Right

Magazine article Real Estate Issues

The Myth of Moral Justice: Why Our Legal System Fails to Do What's Right

Article excerpt

RECOMMENDED READING The Myth of Moral Justice: Why Our Legal System Fails to Do What's Right

by Thane Rosenbaum (2004, 354 pages)

Thane Rosenbaum, lawyer, law professor and novelist, explores the paradox that we are both fascinated and repulsed by our legal system. While we expect justice to be done, the legal system willfully ignores basic moral criteria. As a result the justice system undermines truth, perpetuates secrets and lies, prevents victims from telling their stories, promotes adversarial enmity over community repair, and fails to equate legal duty with moral responsibility. Legal outcomes that make sense to lawyers and judges feel simply wrong to most people and enrage others. Many view the law as overly logical, technical, narrow, bureaucratic and insensitive to basic human emotions and moral principles. Rosenbaum explores our longing for moral justice using examples from literature and feature films.

Rosenbaum claims to attempt to teach his law students how to enter their chosen profession with a deeper spiritual and moral awareness of what the law lacks. As a novelist, he claims that with all its obsessive insularity and narrowness, its pretense that all that matters is what takes place under oath, the law misses the emotional back-story, the suppressed part of every lawsuit. It relies too much on logic and not enough on compassion. The institution of law defines itself as an arbiter of legal disputes, and not a dispenser of moral lessons or seeker of truths. It thrives on an adversarial process that only takes prisoners and leaves little room for peace. Legal facts override the moral dimensions of emotional and literal truth. Procedural correctness becomes more important than establishing the truth. Legal ethics has more to do with legal correctness than moral values. Courts pick winners and losers in a zero sum game that fails to resolve emotional distress. The irreconcilable split between the legal and the moral shatters the public's faith in the law.

The novelist Rosenbaum states that the process of the law keeps one from telling their story coherently. Evidence rules truncate and rob stories of their meaning. For one who has suffered pain or loss, the telling of their story is an important aspect of healing, and the court does not provide this outlet. There is a basic incompatibility between grief and monetary damages. When the legal system shuts itself off from the story, it cannot do moral justice. In accepting plea bargaining, we have bargained away the sanctity of the truth for the certainty of jail sentences. The proliferation of settlements prior to trial have robbed the legal process of its therapeutic healing potential of bringing together the community in the search of the truth and the moral lessons that are learned from those truths. …

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