Thoughts on Justice and the Law

"I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."
-  Thomas Jefferson (1788)


"The friends and adversaries of the plan of the constitutional convention, if they agree in nothing else, concur at least in the value they set upon trial by jury; the former regard it as a valuable safeguard to liberty; the latter represent it as the very palladium of free government."
- Alexander Hamilton (1788)


"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals."
- Martin Luther King, Jr.


"The law is the last result of human wisdom acting upon human experience for the benefit of the public."
- Dr. Samuel Johnson


"A lawyer who vigorously represents his client may risk offending the judge, but a lawyer who fails to vigorously represent his client for fear of offending the judge, offends his profession."
- Judge Newell Edenfield, Former Federal Judge - Dist. Ct. Atlanta


"I have lived my life, and I have fought my battles, not against the weak and the poor-anybody can do that- but against power, against injustice, against oppression; and I have asked no odds from them, and I never shall."
- Clarence S. Darrow


"There is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court. It can be the Supreme Court of the United State or the humblest J.P. court in the land, or this honorable court which you serve. Our courts have their faults, as does any human institution, but in this country our courts are the great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal."
- Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird 218 (1960)


"Those who want the Government to regulate matters of the mind and spirit are like men who are so afraid of being murdered that they commit suicide to avoid assassination."
- Harry S. Truman, Address at the National Archives, Washington, D.C., 15 Dec., 1952, in Public Papers of the Presidents: Harry S. Truman, 1952-53, at 1077, 1079 (1966)


"Sacred cows make the best hamburger. "
- Mark Twain


"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. "
- Benjamin Franklin and Richard Jackson, An Historical Review of the Constitution and Government of Pennsylvania (1759)


"That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial by jury is preferable to any other, and ought to be held sacred."
- Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776, ยง 11, in Federal and State Constitutions 7:3812, 3814 (Francis N. Thorpe ed. 1909)


"Where there is Hunger, Law is not regarded; and where Law is not regarded, there will be Hunger."
- Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1755, in Papers of Benjamin Franklin 5:472 (Leonard W. Labaree ed. 1962)


"Ignorance of the law is no excuse in any country. If it were, the laws would lose their effect, because it can always be pretended."
- Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Andre Limozin, 22 Dec. 1787, in Papers of Thomas Jefferson 12:451 (Julian P. Boyd ed. 1955)


"Anyone who believes a better day dawns when lawyers are eliminated bears the burden of explaining who will take their place. Who will protect the poor, the injured, the victims of negligence, the victims of racial violence?"
- John J. Curtin, Jr., Remarks to American Bar Association, Atlanta, 13 Aug. 1991, quoted in Time, 26 Aug. 1991, at 54


"The government of the United States has been emphatically termed a government of laws, and not of men. It will certainly cease to deserve this high appellation, if the laws furnish no remedy for the violation of a vested legal right."
- John Marshal, Marbury v. Madison 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 163 (1803)


"The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom."
- William O. Douglas, Public Utilities Comm'n v. Pollak, 343 U.S. 451, 467 (1952) (dissenting)


"We are rapidly entering the age of no privacy, where everyone is open to surveillance at all times; where there are no secrets from government."
- William O. Douglas, Osborn v. United States, 385 U.S. 323, 341 (1966) (dissenting)


"This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember, or overthrow it."
- Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, 4 Mar. 1861, in Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln 4:269 (Roy P. Basler ed. 1953)


"The word "revolution" has of course acquired a subversive connotation in modern times. But it has roots that are eminently respectable in American history. This country is the product of revolution. Our very being emphasizes that when grievances pile high and there are no political remedies, the exercise of sovereign powers reverts to the people. Teaching and espousing revolution-as distinguished from indulging in overt acts-are therefore obviously within the range of the First Amendment."
- William O. Douglas, W.E.B. Du Bois Clubs v. Clark, 389 U.S. 309, 315-16 (1967)


"Of course, I believe that every child has a right to decent education and shelter, food and medical care; of course, I believe that refugees from political oppression have a right to a haven in a free land; of course I believe that every person has a right to work in dignity and for a decent wage. I do believe and affirm the social contract that grounds these rights. But more to the point I also believe that I am commanded-that we are obligated-to realize those rights."
- Robert M. Cover


"Equal Justice Under Law."
- Inscription on West Portico of Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C.


"Justice the Guardian of Liberty."
- Inscription on East Portico of Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C.


"Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry."
- The Holy Bible - Amos 5:24


"In the heart of every lawyer, worthy of the name, there burns a deep ambition so to bear himself that the profession may be stronger by reason of his passage through its ranks, and that he may leave the law itself a better instrument of human justice than he found it."
- John W. Davis

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