Access to Justice Series: A Brief Reflection by Aaron J. Mohamed and Danielle deMartinoStaff
Aristotle considered justice as the best and most complete virtue. We should all be asking ourselves, how, therefore, does our community embrace this virtue?
The term “justice” as used by Aristotle held two meanings: the first of which describes conduct in agreement with the law, and the second to describe equality. While our community strives to provide equal access and participation in the justice system, we must also see that our community answers to the law. That means in the course of representation we need to pursue the law with solid judgment and with reason rather than mere passion. With reason, justice ought to be achieved, and it is our duty as officers of the court to see that this happens.
But having access to justice means more than merely having access to the justice system. It means having the justice system work for our community, the various parties, and, in a criminal context, both the people and the accused. In furthering this cause of justice, we must acknowledge the limitations in asserting or negotiating the positions of our clients. We must practice with all fairness, compassion, and empathy that is appropriate in the confines of a structured justice system. This means never losing sight of the humanness involved in a particular case.
In taking and prosecuting any case, these considerations should be forefront in the attorney’s mind. For example: what are the needs of the community and the gravity of the case at hand? How will the case affect the community’s infrastructure so that all members of our community can relate with different parts of government– an even greater necessity for the criminal justice system? What obstacles does the client face to communicate with lawyers, or law enforcement?
Perhaps most importantly, how can the client get beyond the current situation, and leave the conflict behind them?
Finally, attorneys should keep the practical realities of their case in mind. Many clients ask if their case “can win” – however – in the civil context, the vast majority of cases settle at a compromise position for both parties. Keeping this dynamic in mind, attorneys should work hard to explain to their clients that resolving conflict and moving on with their lives is, sometimes, the best justice we can hope for in an imperfect world.