Of Justice and Justices
On occasions like this, I sorely miss my departed and dear brother, attorney Kunle Fadipe; he would have treated me to something close or equal to a forensic analysis of the circumstances: either that or some well argued but laughable cynicism of the system. He would have walked me from the roots, point me along the stem and thenbranch by branch, foliage after foliage, let me into the more hidden parts of that arboreal remoteness of the law by which justice is so often tossed into the misty void beyond the reach of the plaintiff, poised diffidentlyon the muddied ground below. He may even have amused himself as he often did, skilfully exposing my ignorance of the realities of the law:….the baffling disconnect between the ability of the law and it’s ambitions… between the labour that law invests in the pursuit of justice and the paucity of the harvest by which that labour is rewarded.
He would have quoted some law lords somewhere in some legal sanctuary in some parts of the world :” law and justice are two twins borne same time, the law nurtured into giant, justice only to infancy “Or” where there is no justice, the law labours but in vain “He lived his short life ceaselessly billowing to police the law against injustice ; in the end, Kunle, not Injustice was the enigma policed into mortal silence. The first time I woke to suspecting the yawning gap between law and justice must have been two or three decades ago. A cab driver in London had come for me. A man suddenly burst through from nowhere pleading he be allowed to have the taxi. I could see he was harried I yielded my turn. “Can you kindly take me to the court of justice just round the corner ” he belted to the driver. “I’ve been a cab driver in London for forty years but I don’t know where that is “, “it is only ten minutes from here. That big terraced house in yellow with low gates down the next avenue. I am an attorney and late for my case”. “Oh … You mean the court of law ” the driver rebutted. “Oh well if you choose to call it that “ the attorney replied”. Sir, you and I know there is no such thing as court of justice, only a court of law ” the driver insisted. And off they sped, leaving me bemused as I waited for the next cab.
I have never let go that exchange between the driver and the attorney. Surgery has many times led me into the courts as expert witness, affording me the opportuned chance to see even clearer , how often justice had its back against the wall. Claims and counter claims from both sides of the palisade , pelted with furious speeds at the bench through partisan bars, in turn meandering obfuscatingly through the judge to the jury. The latter not infrequently half asleep, half informed, half engaged and hardly unbiased. Yet….a verdict. Then same case, same pundits, same circumstantialities but different bench, … and like crystals in a supersaturation experiment … out pops new verdict. In the end, time and again, as many verdicts as the number of benches approached or even more bizzare, … the balance of votes inside one long bench.
These flip flops packaged as jurisprudence have led many populations to watch with combative engagement, the processes by which their benches are filled. If justice is exclusion of arbitrariness, founded on the unyielding pillars of law, yet the pillars are only as strong or straight as their human guardians , legal outcomes can only mirror not the intrinsic physics of the pillars, but the confounding metaphysics of a gaming humanity. As such, not only will the epimorphic forces from such compromised custodians warp the shape of justice, they may abort it’s growth, leaving the law speeding inpetulantly ahead to a destination as unknown to justice as it is to the seekers of justice. Hidden way up within the arboreal lush, heights beyond the gaze, lo the grasp of the plaintiff. Is it any surprise the soap opera playing out inside Washington or few strides away, in Brasil, the Brazilian Washington.
In the former, no one is prepared to trust no one in the choice of a justice. Yet no one is willing or able to argue against the meritocracy of the nomination … only of the nominator, who is by the way constitutionally bound and privileged to nominate. That’s because behind the charade is the knowledge of another charade; … justice and justiciability, no matter the sophistriesare beyond measure or prescriptions of mere merit; they are as much a calibrated factorial of the objectivity or intrinsicity of the law as they are of the subjectivity or extrinsicity of the interpreter of that law. The dentition of the law is but the dentition of its interpreter, the bite, the interpreter’s. Inside the elegant robes by which law is adorned subjectivity (veneered though the language ) trumps objectivity. When decisions are split almost down the middle over same body of evidence, the crippling over-reach of subjectivity, fed through ideological convictions can only become glaring.
If America with all her taunted judicial prowess can be so mortally afraid over choices, she is willing to sabre rattle about who and when to choose a justice, not who the justice is, what should one imagine of less endowed jurisdictions where sabre rattling can degenerate into gladiatorial blood baths or the system so opaque, neither justice nor people is unserved or Tyranny, the only bench. Brazil is tail spinning herself into constitutional snafu, the law labouring hard unassisted by justice or is it. Which will lead away from the abyss ? The infant baby,…alias justice, or its bigger twin….alias law.
Basil Jide Fadipe
Medical Surgeon, Teacher, Social Commentator
Justin Fadipe Centre
Commonwealth of Dominica