Although “justice” is a complex, many-faceted philosophical concept, and there are many categories of justice, I like to think of it in simple terms. Since my law practice involves representing individuals with claims against wrong-doers that are resolved in civil courts, there are two concepts of justice that I am primarily concerned with: social justice and civil justice.
Social justice is the quality of being fair and equal. For instance, if one class of people are denied the right to vote, based on race for instance, there is a denial of social justice.
If we live in a society in which an elite few enjoy unfathomable wealth while the rest of the society lives in poverty, there is a lack of social justice. An extreme example would be the ancient world, where in Rome and Greece 40% of the populace was enslaved.
In more recent times, just over 160 years ago, there were slaves in America. That is a lack of social justice. Social justice is when unfairness and inequity is corrected and overcome.
Civil Justice usually refers, in this Country, to what is called the Civil Justice System. The civil justice system can be understood by contrasting it to the criminal justice system.
The criminal justice system is the system in which crimes and punishments are defined, adjudicated, and determined.
The Civil Justice system is the institutionalized process whereby the rights and liabilities of individuals and organizations, as between individual parties, are adjudicated and determined.
To the extent the government is involved it is as either a party on an equal footing with other litigants, or as the arbiter of disputes between these parties.
In the Civil Justice System determinations are made in accordance with rules, usually in the form of legislatively adopted statutes, ordinances or administrative rules, but also based on precedents established by published court decisions.
The aim of rules ought to be to create social justice. The rules, which may not result is social justice, govern the standards by which decisions are made.
If you have a personal injury claim that cannot be settled with the at-fault party, it is determined by the Civil Justice System.
In our society today there are political interests who would diminish the civil justice system for their own benefit.
For instance, rather than allow an injured party to recover enough money to be made whole, these political interests would arbitrarily cap their own liability for their own wrong-doing. Historically, our civil justice system has attempted to place the poor on an equal footing with the rich; all people would stand equal before the law.
But these political combines, like the American Chamber of Commerce and the American Tort Reform Association, now seek to skew the rules so that business interests can avoid liability for the harm that they sometimes cause.
Our framers knew that the oligarchs and wealthy classes would always be able to buy a disproportionate influence in the halls of the nation’s legislative bodies.
But the framers of our constitution created the civil justice system as a check and balance on the influence of the ultra wealthy. It is this check and balance that business interests seek to upset today.
Additional reading: Personal Injury and the Justice system, civil justice system, civil vs criminal justice system, Personal Injury and the justice system and safety net, negligence, personal injury, Civil liberties.
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