Dating back hundreds of years, trial lawyers have believed that justice is a basic human right. As the centuries passed from the dark ages to the age of enlightenment, from governments ruled by kings and emperors to those where the people became free to decide who their leaders would be, the notion of what justice means has also evolved.
In the years before Christ, ancient Greeks and Romans celebrated the concept of Lady Justice, celebrating her as a form of diety – but one where the powerful could rely on her to serve their purposes.
By the 16th century, as the notion of democracy began to take root, Lady Justice also changed. For the first time she began being shown in a blindfold – a symbol that the fundamental right to justice was the same for each human, a right belonging to the poor as much as to the wealthy.
Lady Justice carries the sword of truth in one hand and scales evenly balanced in the other – signifying the need for fairness in any society where law and order spring from freedom, where those who are mighty or who are in authority do not have a place of advantage over those who are vulnerable.
Over time – in this Country – Lady Justice has stood as acceptance of a basic civil right for all who come before her — regardless of how poor, or who they love, or where they live, or where they came from, or what color of skin they have. Each deserves equal justice.
We live in turbulent times. The rule of law – and what that means – has come under perhaps its greatest threat in many generations. On social media, anger and hatred flow uninhibited. We see disturbing videos where rights we have taken for granted for generations appear to be evaporating – where those who are innocent are harmed, where those who have power abuse those who would peacefully protest.
Lady Justice must be trembling with fear or fury or both.
This blog is not about politics. Equal justice is not a partisan issue. Equal justice is what every human being should want for themselves and for others. It goes back to that old adage – ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’
What is truth is that we live in a time when past injustices create the need to revisit the concept of ‘precedence’ – something we trial lawyers and many others hold dear. It is human nature to want things with which we are comfortable to remain the same. One who is comfy with how things have always been may resist it when hearing this thing called ‘cancel culture’ – the taking away of historical monuments or the names of forts because of what they symbolize or the calls for the boycott of some celebrity who does racist rants.
But change isn’t always a bad thing. What went before should be scrutinized rather than revered. What comes after should stand on merit rather than outdated or offensive beliefs. Cultures change as civilization advances.
When our Country was formed, Thomas Jefferson penned the now famous words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Daring, inspiring words. A noble concept. Yet, Jefferson owned slaves – men and women who he perceived as property. Jefferson’s Declaration held equality to only include white males. Ignoring that this reality was part of the ideology of our founding fathers means choosing ignorance and injustice.
Not until 1870 (almost 100 years after Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence) did the 15th Amendment to the Constitution make clear that ‘all men are created equal’ did not exclude anyone of color.
Not until 1919 (only 100 years ago) did the 19th Amendment to the Constitution make clear that ‘all men are created equal’ could not exclude one half of the human race – women — as lesser humans.
Today, wouldn’t any equal justice be inclusive of all humans?
It should go without saying: ‘Black lives matter’. But it needs said.
It should go without saying: ‘Women should be treated as equals and paid as equals’. But it needs said.
Sadly, even in 2020 it needs said so that deeds follow words.
Bad precedents must be canceled – must be changed — for the culture of a stable civilization to have justice.
Change does not mean promoting violent revolution. Preventing change, in like manner, should not occur through ravaging First Amendment liberties that from the beginning of our Country were designed to proclaim the need for change.
The protests we see on American streets have been disturbing.
Is it that unidentified thuggish federal stormtroopers are beating and detaining peaceful protestors in violation of First Amendment rights to peaceful assembly and free speech? Or is it that radicals are rioting and looting and unlawfully destroying property?
We here in rural America watch amazed – and perhaps many are unsure what the truth is.
As trial lawyers, our profession must stand as a wall against both anarchy and tyranny.
Trial lawyers champion law and order – responsibility for one’s actions that injure; accountability for choices that cause harm.
Contrary to stereotype, the job of trial lawyers is anti-Machiavellian – it is to assure that both the means and the ends resound in justice. Justice can only occur with a sense of fairness and honor. Justice does not occur where historical biases create a different outcome based on who you are or the color of your skin – where the weak or poor or different have a knee on their neck and cannot breathe.
Some would say that as trial lawyers, Johnson, Vorhees & Martucci should avoid the controversy of whether what is happening on American streets is wrong.
Some would suggest that JVM should just focus on the Seventh Amendment (the rights to jury decisions) and not worry about the First Amendment (the rights of free speech, free assembly, and free press). ‘Just be personal injury lawyers and stay in your lane.’
This is not the place to be political or partisan.
This is not the place for tribalism or extremism.
This is the place where each of us – as humans – should cry out for equal justice. We should expect it. We should demand it.
Our Law Firm
At Johnson, Vorhees & Martucci, we believe our mission is to make a positive difference in the lives we touch. That begins in our community. When we take on a matter for a person whose life has been suddenly turned into one of pain, of financial desperation, of loss of control – we are committing to care.
Relentless, aggressive advocacy. That is what we do.
Relieving stress. Not adding to it. Being part of the solution.
Accomplishing an end in sight where once again a person can have life, liberty and a pursuit of happiness.
As trial lawyers, we must not lose sight of the bigger picture, even as we work to make a difference in the smaller one. We bring to justice those who harm others through careless, neglectful choices.
Equally important: as trial lawyers we stand for true law and order. We denounce any of those in power – whether it be politicians, corporations, or an armed group of mercenaries – who bring harm or hurt to the most vulnerable. We reject violent means intended to bring about a culture needing canceled or changed. Change comes when much needed reforms spring from a rule of law inspired only by equal justice for all.