Essay on Law And Justice

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100 Words Essay on Law And Justice

Understanding law and justice.

Law is a set of rules made by a country to keep order and protect people and property. Justice is the fair treatment of people according to the law. When laws are followed, people live together peacefully.

The Role of Courts

Courts are special places where judges decide if someone has broken a law. They also help solve disagreements between people or groups. The goal is to make fair decisions so everyone feels the law is just.

Importance of Fair Laws

Good laws are important because they make sure everyone is treated the same, no matter who they are. Fair laws help people trust that justice will be served when needed.

Lawyers and Their Work

Lawyers help people understand laws. They speak for them in court and work hard to make sure the laws are used in the right way to protect their clients.

250 Words Essay on Law And Justice

Understanding law.

Imagine rules in a game. Laws are like those rules, but for society. They are written by the government to make sure people live together peacefully. Laws tell us what we can and cannot do. If we break a law, like running a red light or stealing, there might be a punishment.

What is Justice?

Justice is the idea of being fair. It is when everyone is treated equally and gets what they deserve. Think of a teacher who gives the same amount of time to every student to answer a question. That’s justice. In society, justice means that if someone does something wrong, they face consequences that match their actions.

Laws and Fairness

Laws are supposed to make sure justice happens. For instance, if two people commit the same crime, they should get the same punishment. This is to make sure that everyone is treated the same way, no matter who they are.

Lawyers and Judges

Lawyers help people understand laws. They also speak for people in court. Judges are like referees. They listen to what the lawyers say and then decide what the law says should happen. Their job is to make sure laws are followed and justice is served.

Why Law and Justice Matter

Laws and justice are important because they help us live together without fighting. They make sure that if someone does something bad, there is a way to handle it fairly. This helps everyone feel safe and know what to expect from others. Without laws and justice, it would be very hard to live together in peace.

500 Words Essay on Law And Justice

Law is a set of rules that a country or a community makes to control the actions of its people. These rules are like instructions or guidelines that tell us what we can and cannot do. For example, there is a law that says people must stop at red traffic lights. This law helps to keep everyone safe on the roads.

Laws are important because they help to make sure that people live together in peace. Without laws, there might be chaos, as everyone would do whatever they wanted without thinking about others. Laws are made by governments, and it is the job of the police and courts to make sure that these laws are followed.

Justice is about fairness. It means that everyone should be treated equally and given a fair chance. When we talk about justice, we think about right and wrong, and making sure that people get what they deserve. If someone breaks a law, justice makes sure that they face consequences, like paying a fine or going to jail.

Justice is also about protecting people’s rights. Everyone has rights, like the right to speak freely or the right to go to school. Justice ensures that no one takes these rights away from us without a good reason.

The Connection Between Law and Justice

Laws and justice work together. Laws provide the rules, and justice is the goal that we are trying to reach by following these rules. The idea is that if everyone follows the law, then justice will be served, and society will be fair for all.

Sometimes, though, laws might not seem fair to everyone. When this happens, people can ask the government to change the laws. This is part of what we call democracy, where people have a say in the laws that govern them.

Courts and Legal Systems

Courts are where laws and justice meet. When someone is accused of breaking a law, they go to court. In court, a judge or a group of people called a jury listen to the facts and decide if the person really did break the law.

The legal system is the whole process of making laws, enforcing them, and judging those who break them. It includes the police, who enforce laws, the lawyers, who help people in court, and the judges, who make decisions based on the law.

The Importance of Fairness

Fairness is at the heart of law and justice. This means that everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, should be treated the same under the law. It is not fair if rich people can break the law and not face any consequences, while poor people get punished.

Fairness also means that the laws themselves should be just. Unfair laws can hurt people and make society less peaceful. This is why it is so important for people to speak up if they think a law is unfair.

Law and justice are like the rules of a game and the goal of playing it fairly. They help us live together in a way that is safe and fair for everyone. While laws give us the rules, justice reminds us that these rules should always be fair and apply to everyone equally. It is important for all of us to understand and respect the laws, and also to make sure that justice is always served.

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The idea of justice occupies centre stage both in ethics, and in legal and political philosophy. We apply it to individual actions, to laws, and to public policies, and we think in each case that if they are unjust this is a strong, maybe even conclusive, reason to reject them. Classically, justice was counted as one of the four cardinal virtues (and sometimes as the most important of the four); in modern times John Rawls famously described it as ‘the first virtue of social institutions’ (Rawls 1971, p.3; Rawls, 1999, p.3). We might debate which of these realms of practical philosophy has first claim on justice: is it first and foremost a property of the law, for example, and only derivatively a property of individuals and other institutions? But it is probably more enlightening to accept that the idea has over time sunk deep roots in each of these domains, and to try to make sense of such a wide-ranging concept by identifying elements that are present whenever justice is invoked, but also examining the different forms it takes in various practical contexts. This article aims to provide a general map of the ways in which justice has been understood by philosophers, past and present.

We begin by identifying four core features that distinguish justice from other moral and political ideas. We then examine some major conceptual contrasts: between conservative and ideal justice, between corrective and distributive justice, between procedural and substantive justice, and between comparative and non-comparative justice. Next we turn to questions of scope: to who or what do principles of justice apply? We ask whether non-human animals can be subjects of justice, whether justice applies only between people who already stand in a particular kind of relationship to one another, and whether individual people continue to have duties of justice once justice-based institutions have been created. We then examine three overarching theories that might serve to unify the different forms of justice: utilitarianism, contractarianism, and egalitarianism. But it seems, in conclusion, that no such theory is likely be successful.

More detailed discussions of particular forms of justice can be found in other entries: see especially distributive justice , global justice , intergenerational justice , international distributive justice , justice and bad luck , justice as a virtue , and retributive justice .

1.1 Justice and Individual Claims

1.2 justice, charity and enforceable obligation, 1.3 justice and impartiality, 1.4 justice and agency, 2.1 conservative versus ideal justice, 2.2 corrective versus distributive justice, 2.3 procedural versus substantive justice, 2.4 comparative versus non-comparative justice, 3.1 human vs non-human animals, 3.2 relational vs non-relational justice, 3.3 individuals vs institutions, 3.4 recognition vs. redistribution, 4.1 accommodating intuitions about justice, 4.2 utilitarian theories of justice: three problems, 5.1 gauthier, 5.3 scanlon, 6.1 justice as equality, 6.2 responsibility-sensitive egalitarianism, 6.3 relational egalitarianism, 7. conclusion, other internet resources, related entries, 1. justice: mapping the concept.

‘Justice’ has sometimes been used in a way that makes it virtually indistinguishable from rightness in general. Aristotle, for example, distinguished between ‘universal’ justice that corresponded to ‘virtue as a whole’ and ‘particular’ justice which had a narrower scope (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics , Book V, chs. 1–2). The wide sense may have been more evident in classical Greek than in modern English. But Aristotle also noted that when justice was identified with ‘complete virtue’, this was always ‘in relation to another person’. In other words, if justice is to be identified with morality as such, it must be morality in the sense of ‘what we owe to each other’ (see Scanlon 1998). But it is anyway questionable whether justice should be understood so widely. At the level of individual ethics, justice is often contrasted with charity on the one hand, and mercy on the other, and these too are other-regarding virtues. At the level of public policy, reasons of justice are distinct from, and often compete with, reasons of other kinds, for example economic efficiency or environmental value.

As this article will endeavour to show, justice takes on different meanings in different practical contexts, and to understand it fully we have to grapple with this diversity. But it is nevertheless worth asking whether we find a core concept that runs through all these various uses, or whether it is better regarded as a family resemblance idea according to which different combinations of features are expected to appear on each occasion of use. The most plausible candidate for a core definition comes from the Institutes of Justinian , a codification of Roman Law from the sixth century AD, where justice is defined as ‘the constant and perpetual will to render to each his due’. This is of course quite abstract until further specified, but it does throw light upon four important aspects of justice.

First, it shows that justice has to do with how individual people are treated (‘to each his due’). Issues of justice arise in circumstances in which people can advance claims – to freedom, opportunities, resources, and so forth – that are potentially conflicting, and we appeal to justice to resolve such conflicts by determining what each person is properly entitled to have. In contrast, where people’s interests converge, and the decision to be taken is about the best way to pursue some common purpose – think of a government official having to decide how much food to stockpile as insurance against some future emergency – justice gives way to other values. In other cases, there may be no reason to appeal to justice because resources are so plentiful that we do not need to worry about allotting shares to individuals. Hume pointed out that in a hypothetical state of abundance where ‘every individual finds himself fully provided with whatever his most voracious appetites can want’, ‘the cautious, jealous virtue of justice would never once have been dreamed of’ (Hume, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals , pp. 183–4). Hume also believed – and philosophical controversy on this point persists until today – that justice has no place in close personal relationships, such as the family, where (it is alleged) each identifies with the others’ interests so strongly that there is no need and no reason for anyone to make claims of personal entitlement. (See Sandel 1982 for a defence of this view; for a critique, see Okin 1989. See also the entry on feminist perspectives on reproduction and the family) .

That justice is a matter of how each separate person is treated appears to create problems for theories such as utilitarianism that judge actions and policies on the basis of their overall consequences aggregated across people – assuming that these theories wish to incorporate rather than discard the idea of justice. In Section 4 below we examine how utilitarians have attempted to respond to this challenge.

Although justice is centrally a matter of how individuals are treated, it is also possible to speak of justice for groups – for example when the state is allocating resources between different categories of citizens. Here each group is being treated as though it were a separate individual for purposes of the allocation.

Second, Justinian’s definition underlines that just treatment is something due to each person, in other words that justice is a matter of claims that can be rightfully made against the agent dispensing justice, whether a person or an institution. Here there is a contrast with other virtues: we demand justice, but we beg for charity or forgiveness. This also means that justice is a matter of obligation for the agent dispensing it, and that the agent wrongs the recipient if the latter is denied what is due to her. It is a characteristic mark of justice that the obligations it creates should be enforceable: we can be made to deliver what is due to others as a matter of justice, either by the recipients themselves or by third parties. However it overstates the position to make the enforceability of its requirements a defining feature of justice (see Buchanan 1987). On the one hand, there are some claims of justice that seem not to be enforceable (by anyone). When we dispense gifts to our children or our friends, we ought to treat each recipient fairly, but neither the beneficiaries themselves nor anyone else can rightfully force the giver to do so. On the other hand, in cases of extreme emergency, it may sometimes be justifiable to force people to do more than justice requires them to do – there may exist enforceable duties of humanity. But these are rare exceptions. The obligatory nature of justice generally goes hand-in-hand with enforceability.

The third aspect of justice to which Justinian’s definition draws our attention is the connection between justice and the impartial and consistent application of rules – that is what the ‘constant and perpetual will’ part of the definition conveys. Justice is the opposite of arbitrariness. It requires that where two cases are relevantly alike, they should be treated in the same way (We discuss below the special case of justice and lotteries). Following a rule that specifies what is due to a person who has features X , Y , Z whenever such a person is encountered ensures this. And although the rule need not be unchangeable – perpetual in the literal sense – it must be relatively stable. This explains why justice is exemplified in the rule of law, where laws are understood as general rules impartially applied over time. Outside of the law itself, individuals and institutions that want to behave justly must mimic the law in certain ways (for instance, gathering reliable information about individual claimants, allowing for appeals against decisions).

Finally, the definition reminds us that justice requires an agent whose will alters the circumstances of its objects. The agent might be an individual person, or it might be a group of people, or an institution such as the state. So we cannot, except metaphorically, describe as unjust states of affairs that no agent has contributed to bringing about – unless we think that there is a Divine Being who has ordered the universe in such a way that every outcome is a manifestation of His will. Admittedly we are tempted to make judgements of what is sometimes called ‘cosmic injustice’ – say when a talented person’s life is cut cruelly short by cancer, or our favourite football team is eliminated from the competition by a freak goal – but this is a temptation we should resist.

This agency condition, however, is less restrictive than it might at first appear. It by no means excludes the possibility that agents can create injustice by omission – for example by failing to create the institutions or to enact the policies that would deliver vital resources to those who need them. Thus it is now common to speak of ‘systemic injustice’ in the case of bad outcomes that no-one intends to occur but that could be prevented by a shift in social norms or institutional practices. The agents in these cases are all those who by acting together to change these things could invert the injustice, but have so far failed to do so.

2. Justice: Four Distinctions

We have so far looked at four elements that are present in every use of the concept of justice. Now it is time to consider some equally important contrasts.

Philosophers writing on justice have observed that it has two different faces, one conservative of existing norms and practices, the other demanding reform of these norms and practices (see Sidgwick 1874/1907, Raphael 2001). Thus on the one hand it is a matter of justice to respect people’s rights under existing law or moral rules, or more generally to fulfil the legitimate expectations they have acquired as a result of past practice, social conventions, and so forth; on the other hand, justice often gives us reason to change laws, practices and conventions quite radically, thereby creating new entitlements and expectations. This exposes an ambiguity in what it means to ‘render each his due’. What is ‘due’ might be what a person can reasonably expect to have given existing law, policy, or social practice, or it might be what the person should get under a regime of ideal justice: this could mean what the person deserves, or needs, or is entitled to on grounds of equality, depending on which ideal principle is being invoked.

Conceptions of justice vary according to the weight they attach to each of these faces. At one extreme, some conceptions interpret justice as wholly concerned with what individuals can claim under existing laws and social conventions: thus for Hume, justice was to be understood as adherence to a set of rules that assign physical objects to individuals (such as being the first possessor of such an object) (Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature , Book III, Part II). These rules can be explained by reference to the natural associations that form in people’s minds between persons and external objects, and although the system of justice as a whole can be shown to be socially useful, there are no relevant independent standards by which its principles can be assessed (Hume briskly dismissed equality and merit as principles for allocating property to persons). In similar vein, Hayek argued that justice was a property of individual behaviour, understood as compliance with the ‘rules of just conduct’ that had evolved to enable a market economy to function effectively. For Hayek, to speak of ‘social justice’ as an ideal standard of distribution was as meaningless as to speak of a ‘moral stone’ (Hayek 1976, p. 78)

At the other extreme stand conceptions of justice which posit some ideal principle of distribution such as equality, together with a ‘currency’ specifying the respect in which justice requires people to be made equally well off, and then refuse to acknowledge the justice of any claims that do not arise directly from the application of this principle. Thus claims deriving from existing law or practice are dismissed unless they happen to coincide with what the principle requires. More often, however, ideal justice is seen as proposing principles by which existing institutions and practices can be assessed, with a view to reforming them, or in the extreme case abolishing them entirely, while the claims that people already have under those practices are given some weight. Rawls, for example, whose two principles of justice count as ideal principles for this purpose, is at pains to stress that they are not intended to be applied in a way that disregards people’s existing legitimate expectations. About the ‘difference principle’, which requires social and economic inequalities to be regulated so that they work to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society, he says:

It applies to the announced system of public law and statutes and not to particular transactions or distributions, nor to the decisions of individuals and associations, but rather to the institutional background against which these transactions and decisions take place. There are no unannounced and unpredictable interferences with citizens’ expectations and acquisitions. Entitlements are earned and honored as the public system of rules declares. (Rawls 1993, p. 283)

Here we see Rawls attempting to reconcile the demands of conservative and ideal justice. Yet he does not directly address the question of what should happen when changing circumstances mean that the difference principle requires new laws or policies to be enacted: do those whose prior entitlements or expectations are no longer met have a claim to be compensated for their loss? We could call this the question of transitional justice (though this phrase is often used now in a more specific sense to refer to the process of reconciliation that may occur following civil war or other armed conflicts: see the entry on transitional justice ).

A second important contrast, whose pedigree reaches back at least as far as Aristotle, is between justice as a principle for assigning distributable goods of various kinds to individual people, and justice as a remedial principle that applies when one person wrongly interferes with another’s legitimate holdings. Thus suppose Bill steals Alice’s computer, or sells Alice faulty goods which he claims to be in perfect order: then Alice suffers a loss, which justice demands that Bill should remedy by returning the computer or fulfilling his contract honestly. Corrective justice, then, essentially concerns a bilateral relationship between a wrongdoer and his victim, and demands that the fault be cancelled by restoring the victim to the position she would have been in had the wrongful behaviour not occurred; it may also require that the wrongdoer not benefit from his faulty behaviour. Distributive justice, on the other hand, is multilateral: it assumes a distributing agent, and a number of persons who have claims on what is being distributed. Justice here requires that the resources available to the distributor be shared according to some relevant criterion, such as equality, desert, or need. In Aristotle’s example, if there are fewer flutes available than people who want to play them, they should be given to the best performers (Aristotle, The Politics , p. 128). In modern debates, principles of distributive justice are applied to social institutions such as property and tax systems, which are understood as producing distributive outcomes across large societies, or even the world as a whole.

The conceptual distinction between distributive and corrective justice seems clear, but their normative relationship is more difficult to pin down (see Perry 2000, Ripstein 2004, Coleman 1992, chs. 16–17). Some have claimed that corrective justice is merely instrumental to distributive justice: its aim is to move from a situation of distributive injustice brought about by the faulty behaviour to one that is more nearly (if not perfectly) distributively just. But this view runs into a number of objections. One is that so long as Alice has a legitimate title to her computer, her claim of corrective justice against Bill does not depend on her having had, prior to the theft, the share of resources that distributive justice ideally demands. She might be richer than she deserves to be, yet corrective justice still require that the computer be returned to her. In other words, corrective justice may serve to promote conservative rather than ideal justice, to use the distinction introduced in 2.1. Another objection is that corrective justice requires the wrongdoer himself to restore or compensate the person he has wronged, even if the cause of distributive justice could be better served by transferring resources from a third party – giving Alice one of even-more-undeservedly-rich Charles’s computers, for example. This underlines the bilateral nature of corrective justice, and also the fact that it comes into play in response to faulty behaviour on someone’s part. Its primary demand is that people should not lose out because others have behaved wrongfully or carelessly, but it also encompasses the idea that ‘no man should profit by his own wrong’. If Alice loses her computer in a boating accident, she might, under an insurance scheme, have a claim of distributive justice to a new machine, but she has no claim of corrective justice.

If corrective justice cannot be subsumed normatively under distributive justice, we need to explain its value. What is achieved when we make Bill return the computer to Alice? Aristotle ( Nicomachean Ethics , Book V, ch. 4) suggested that corrective justice aims to restore the two parties to a position of equality; by returning the computer we cancel both Bill’s unjustified gain and Alice’s unjustified loss. But this assumes that the computer can be returned intact. Corrective justice requires that Alice be made no worse off than she was before the theft, even if that means Bill suffering an absolute loss (e.g. by paying for a new computer if he has damaged Alice’s). Aristotle himself recognized that the idea of evening out gain and loss made no literal sense in a case where one person assaults another and has to compensate him for his injury – there is no ‘gain’ to be redistributed. It seems, then, that the value of corrective justice must lie in the principle that each person must take responsibility for his own conduct, and if he fails to respect the legitimate interests of others by causing injury, he must make good the harm. In that way, each person can plan her life secure in the knowledge that she will be protected against certain kinds of external setbacks. Philosophers and lawyers writing on corrective justice disagree about what standard of responsibility should apply – for example whether compensation is required only when one person wilfully or negligently causes another to suffer loss, or whether it can also be demanded when the perpetrator displays no such fault but is nevertheless causally responsible for the injury.

A third distinction that must be drawn is between the justice of the procedures that might be used to determine how benefits and burdens of various kinds are allocated to people, and the justice of the final allocation itself. It might initially seem as though the justice of a procedure can be reduced to the justice of the results produced by applying it, but this is not so. For one thing, there are cases in which the idea of an independently just outcome makes no sense. A coin toss is a fair way of deciding who starts a game, but neither the Blues nor the Reds have a claim of justice to bat first or kick off. But even where a procedure has been shaped by a concern that it should produce substantively just outcomes, it may still have special properties that make it intrinsically just. In that case, using a different procedure to produce the same result might be objectionable. In an influential discussion, John Rawls contrasted perfect procedural justice , where a procedure is such that if it is followed a just outcome is guaranteed (requiring the person who cuts a cake to take the last slice himself is the illustration Rawls provides), imperfect procedural justice , where the procedure is such that following it is likely, but not certain, to produce the just result, and pure procedural justice , such as the coin-tossing example, where there is no independent way to assess the outcome – if we call it just, it is only on the grounds that it has come about by following the relevant procedure (Rawls 1971, 1999, § 14).

Theories of justice can then be distinguished according to the relative weight they attach to procedures and substantive outcomes. Some theories are purely procedural in form. Robert Nozick distinguished between historical theories of justice, end-state theories, and patterned theories in order to defend the first against the second and third (Nozick 1974). An end-state theory defines justice in terms of some overall property of a distribution (of resources, welfare, etc.) – for example whether it is egalitarian, or whether the lowest position in the distribution is as high as it can be, as Rawls’ difference principle requires. A patterned theory looks at whether what each receives as part of a distribution matches some individual feature such as their desert or their need. By contrast, an historical theory asks about the process by which the final outcome has arisen. In Nozick’s particular case, a distribution of resources is said to be just if everyone within its scope is entitled to what they now own, having acquired it by legitimate means – such as voluntary contract or gift – from someone who was also entitled to have it, leading back eventually to a just act of acquisition – such as labouring on a plot of land – that gave the first owner his valid title. The shape of the final distribution is irrelevant: according to Nozick, justice is entirely a matter of the sequence of prior events that created it (for critical assessments of Nozick’s position, see Paul 1982, Wolff 1991, Cohen 1995, chs. 1–2).

For most philosophers, however, the justice of a procedure is to a large extent a function of the justice of the outcomes that it tends to produce when applied. For instance, the procedures that together make up a fair trial are justified on the grounds that for the most part they produce outcomes in which the guilty are punished and the innocent are acquitted. Yet even in these cases, we should be wary of assuming that the procedure itself has no independent value. We can ask of a procedure whether it treats the people to whom it is applied justly, for example by giving them adequate opportunities to advance their claims, not requiring them to provide personal information that they find humiliating to reveal, and so forth. Studies by social psychologists have shown that in many cases people care more about being treated fairly by the institutions they have to deal with than about how they fare when the procedure’s final result is known (Lind and Tyler 1988).

Justice takes a comparative form when to determine what is due to one person we need to look at what others can also claim: to determine how large a slice of pie is rightfully John’s, we have to know how many others have a claim to the pie, and also what the principle for sharing it should be – equality, or something else. Justice takes a non-comparative form when we can determine what is due to a person merely by knowing relevant facts about that particular person: if John has already been promised the whole of the pie, then that is what he can rightfully claim for himself. Some theories of justice seem to imply that justice is always a comparative notion – for example when it is said that justice consists in the absence of arbitrary inequality – whereas others imply that it is always non-comparative. But conceptually, at least, both forms seem admissible; indeed we can find cases in which it appears we have to choose between doing justice comparatively and doing it non-comparatively (see Feinberg 1974; for a critical response, see Montague 1980). For example, we might have several candidates all of whom are roughly equally deserving of an academic honour, but the number of honours we are permitted to award is smaller than the number of candidates. If we honour some but not others, we perpetrate a comparative injustice, but if to avoid doing so we honour no-one at all, then each is treated less well than they deserve, and so unjustly from a non-comparative perspective.

Theories of justice can then be categorised according to whether they are comparative, non-comparative, or neither. Principles of equality – principles requiring the equal distribution of some kind of benefit – are plainly comparative in form, since what is due to each person is simply an equal share of the benefit in question rather than any fixed amount. In the case of principles of desert, the position is less straightforward. These principles take the form ‘ A deserves X by virtue of P ’, where X is a mode of treatment, and P is a personal characteristic possessed by A (Feinberg 1970). In the case of both X and P , we can ask whether they are to be identified comparatively or non-comparatively. Thus what A deserves might either be an entitlement, or an absolute amount of some benefit – ‘a living wage’, say – or it might be a share of some collective benefit, or a multiple or fraction of what others are receiving – ‘twice what B is getting’, say. Turning to P , or what is often called the desert basis, this may be a feature of A that we can identify without reference to anyone else, or it may be a comparative feature, such as being the best student in a graduating class. So desert-based claims of justice might take one of four different forms depending on whether the basis of desert and/or the deserved mode of treatment is comparative or non-comparative (see Olsaretti 2003 for essays that address this question; for a more advanced treatment, see Kagan 2012, Part III).

Among principles of justice that are straightforwardly non-comparative are ‘sufficiency’ principles which hold that what justice requires is that each person should have ‘enough’, on some dimension or other – for instance, have all of their needs fulfilled, or have a specified set of capabilities that they are able to exercise (for a general defence of sufficiency, though not one that links it specifically to justice, see Frankfurt 2015; for a critique, see Casal 2007). Such principles, however, need to be supplemented by other principles, not only to tell us what to do with the surplus (assuming there is one) once everyone has sufficient resources, but also to guide us in situations where there are too few resources to bring everyone up to the sufficiency threshold. Should we, for example, maximise the number of people who achieve sufficiency, or minimise the aggregate shortfall suffered by those in the relevant group? Unless we are prepared to say that these are not matters of justice, a theory of justice that contains only the sufficiency principle and nothing else looks incomplete.

Some theories of justice cannot readily be classified either as comparative or as non-comparative. Consider one part of Rawls’ theory of social justice, the difference principle, which as noted above requires that social and economic inequalities be arranged to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged (Rawls 1971, 1999, §12–13). Under this principle, ideally just shares are calculated by determining what each person would receive under the set of social institutions whose economic effect is to raise the worst off person to the highest possible level. This is neither a fixed amount, nor one that depends in any direct sense on what other individuals are receiving, or should receive. Applying the difference principle does require making comparisons, but these are comparisons between the effects of different social institutions – say different tax laws, or different ways of defining property rights – not between individual people and the amounts of benefit they are receiving. We might call theories of this kind ‘holistic’ or ‘systemic’.

3. The Scope of Justice

When we raise questions about the scope of justice, we are asking about when principles of justice take effect and among whom . We have already, when discussing Hume, encountered the idea that there might be circumstances in which justice becomes irrelevant – circumstances in which resources are so abundant that it is pointless to allocate individual shares, or, as Hume also believed, in which resources are so scarce that everyone is permitted to grab what he can in the name of self-preservation. But even in circumstances that are less extreme than these, questions about scope arise. Who can make claims of justice, and who might have the corresponding obligation to meet them? Does this depend on the kind of thing that is being claimed? If comparative principles are being applied, who should be counted as part of the comparison group? Do some principles of justice have universal scope – they apply whenever agent A acts towards recipient B , regardless of the relationship between them – while others are contextual in character, applying only within social or political relationships of a certain kind? The present section examines some of these questions in greater detail.

What does a creature have to do, or be like, to be included within the scope of (at least some) principles of justice? Most past philosophers have assumed that the line should be drawn so as to exclude all non-human animals, but more recently some have been prepared to defend ‘justice for animals’ (Nussbaum 2006, ch. 6; Garner 2013). Against this, Rawls asserts that although we have ‘duties of compassion and humanity’ towards animals and should refrain from treating them cruelly, nonetheless they are ‘outside the scope of the theory of justice’ (Rawls 1971, p. 512; Rawls 1999, p. 448). How could this claim be justified?

We can focus our attention either on individual features that humans possess and animals lack, and that might be thought relevant to their inclusion within the scope of justice, or on asymmetries in the relationship between humans and other animals. To begin with the latter, Hume claimed that the domination humans exercised over animals – such that an animal could only possess something by virtue of our permission – meant that we were ‘bound by the laws of humanity to give gentle usage to these creatures, but should not, properly speaking, lie under any restraint of justice with regard to them’ (Hume, Enquiry , p. 190). For Rawls and those influenced by him, principles of distributive justice apply among agents who are related to one another as participants in a ‘cooperative venture for mutual advantage’, and this might seem to exclude animals from the scope of such principles. Critics of this view have pointed to cases of human-animal co-operation (Donaldson and Kymlicka 2011, Valentini 2014); however these arguments focus mainly or entirely on the special case of dogs , and it seems implausible to generalise from them in an attempt to show that human-animal relationships generally have a co-operative character.

But the claim that justice only applies to participants in co-operative practices is anyway vulnerable to the objection that it risks excluding seriously disabled people, people living in isolated communities, and future generations from the scope of justice, so it does not seem compelling as a claim about justice in general (see further below). Might there be other reasons why animals cannot make claims of justice on us? Another Rawls-inspired suggestion is that animals lack the necessary moral powers, in particular the capacity to act on principles of justice themselves. They cannot distinguish what is justly owed to them from what is not; and they cannot determine what they owe to others – whether to humans or to other non-human animals – as a matter of justice. This suggestion interprets justice as involving a kind of reciprocity: an agent to whom justice is due must also in principle be an agent who could dispense justice to others, by virtue of having the relevant capacity, even if for physical reasons – such as suffering from severe disability – they cannot do so in practice.

If this suggestion is rejected, and we allow that some animals, at least, should be included within the scope of justice, we can then ask about the form that justice should take in their cases. Using the distinction drawn in 2.4 above, it appears that justice for animals must be non-comparative. For example, we might attribute rights to the animals over whom we exercise power – rights against cruel treatment, and rights to food and shelter, for instance. This would involve using a sufficiency principle to determine what animals are owed as a matter of justice. It is much less plausible to think that comparative principles might apply, such that giving special treats to one cat but not another could count as an injustice.

The Rawlsian view introduced in the previous section, which holds that principles of social justice apply among people who are engaged together in a co-operative practice, is a leading example of a relational theory of justice. Other theories offer different accounts of the relevant justice-generating feature: for example, Nagel has argued that principles of distributive justice apply among people who by virtue of being citizens of the same state are required both to comply with, and accept responsibility for, the coercive laws that govern their lives (Nagel 2005). In both cases, the claim being made is that when people stand in a certain relationship to one another, they become subject to principles of justice whose scope is limited to those within the relationship. In particular, comparative principles apply within the relationship, but not beyond it. If A stands in a relationship (of the right kind) to B , then it becomes a matter of justice how A is treated relative to B , but it does not matter in the same way how A is treated relative to C who stands outside of the relationship. Justice may still require that C be given treatment of a certain kind, but that will be justice in its non-comparative guise.

Whether justice is relational in either of the ways that Rawls and Nagel suggest has large implications for its scope. In particular it bears on the question whether there is such a thing as global distributive justice, or, in contrast, whether distributive principles only apply to people who are related together as members of the same society or citizens of the same state. For example, might the global inequalities that exist between rich and poor in today’s world be unjust simply as inequalities, or are they unjust only insofar as they prevent poor people from living lives that we judge to be acceptable? (see entries on international distributive justice and global justice ) So much hangs on the question whether, and if so in virtue of what, distributive justice has a relational character. What reason can be given for thinking that it does?

Suppose we have two people A and B , of whom one is significantly better off than another – has greater opportunities or a higher income, say. Why should this be a concern of justice? It seems it will not be a concern unless it can be shown that the inequality between A and B can be attributed to the behaviour of some agent, individual or collective, whose actions or omissions have resulted in A being better off than B – in which case we can ask whether the inequality between them is justifiable, say on grounds of their respective deserts. This reiterates the claim in 1.4 above that without an agent to whom the outcome can be attributed there can only be justice or injustice in a metaphorical, ‘cosmic’, sense. Relational theorists claim that when people associate with one another in the relevant way, they become agents of justice. On a small scale they can organize informally to ensure that each receives what is due to him relative to the rest. On a larger scale, distributive justice requires the creation of legal and other institutions to achieve that outcome. Moreover failure to co-ordinate their actions in this way is likely to be a source of injustice by omission.

Debates about the scope of justice then become debates about whether different forms of human association are of the right kind to create agency in the relevant sense. Take the question of whether principles of social justice should apply to market transactions. If we see the market as a neutral arena in which many individual people freely pursue their own purposes, then the answer will be No. The only form of justice that arises will be justice in the conduct of each agent, who must avoid inflicting harm on others, must fulfil her contracts, and so forth. Whereas if we see the market as governed by a humanly-constructed system of rules that the participants collectively have the power to change – by legislation, for example – then we cannot avoid asking whether the outcomes it currently produces meet relevant standards of distributive justice, whatever we take these to be. A similar issue arises in the debate about over principles of global justice referred to above: is the current world order such that it makes sense to regard humanity as a whole as a collective agent responsible for the distributive outcomes it allows to occur?

Once institutions are established for the purpose (among other things) of delivering justice on a large scale, we can ask what duties of justice individual people have in consequence. Is their duty simply to support the institutions, and comply with whatever rules of conduct apply to them personally? Or do they have further duties to promote justice by acting directly on the relevant principles in their daily lives? No one doubts that some duties of justice fall directly on individuals, for example duties not to deceive or defraud when engaging in commercial transactions (and duties of corrective justice where behaviour is faulty), or duties to carry out one’s fair share of an informally organized project from which one expects to benefit, such as cleaning up the neighbourhood park. Others fall on them because they are performing a role within a social institution, for example the duty of an employer not to discriminate on grounds of race or gender when hiring workers, or the duty of a local government officer to assign public housing to those in greatest need. But what is much more in dispute is whether individual people have more extensive duties to promote social justice (for contrasting views, see Cohen 2008, ch. 3, Murphy 1998, Rawls 1993, Lecture VII, Young 2011, ch. 2).

Consider two cases: the first concerns parents who confer advantages on their children in ways that undermine fair equality of opportunity. If the latter principle of justice requires, to cite Rawls, that ‘those who have the same level of talent and ability and the same willingness to use these gifts should have the same prospects of success regardless of their social class of origin’ (Rawls 2001, p. 44) then there are myriad ways in which some parents can bestow advantages on their children that other parents cannot – financial benefits, educational opportunities, social contacts, and so forth – that are likely to bring greater success in later life. Are parents therefore constrained as a matter of justice to avoid conferring at least some of these advantages, or are they free to benefit their children as they choose, leaving the pursuit of equal opportunities entirely in the hands of the state (for a careful analysis, see Brighouse and Swift 2014)?

The second example concerns wage differentials. Might individuals whose talents can bring them high rewards in the labour market have a duty not to make use of their bargaining power, but instead be willing to work for a fair wage – which if fairness is understood in egalitarian terms might mean the same wage as everyone else (perhaps with extra compensation for those whose labour is unusually burdensome)? Rawls, as we saw above, argued that economic justice meant arranging social and economic inequalities to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged, and in formulating the principle in this way he assumed that some inequalities might serve as incentives to greater production that would also raise the position of the worst-off group in society. But if individuals were willing to forego incentives, and so economic inequalities served no useful purpose, then the arrangement that worked to the greatest benefit of the (otherwise) least advantaged would be one of strict equality. Cohen (2008) argues that Rawls’ position is internally inconsistent. As citizens designing our institutions we are supposed to be guided by the difference principle, but as private actors in the marketplace, we are permitted to ignore that principle and bargain for higher wages, even though doing so will work to the disadvantage of the worst-off group. Justice, according to Cohen, requires us to embrace an ethos of service that disdains material incentives.

Why might we hesitate before agreeing that in cases such as these, justice requires people to refrain from doing things that they are permitted to do by the public rules of their society (passing on benefits to their children; seeking higher wages)? One reason is that the refraining is only going to have a significant effect if it is practised on a large scale, and individuals have no assurance that others will follow their example; meanwhile they (or their children) will lose out relative to the less scrupulous. A connected reason has to do with publicity: it may be hard to detect whether people are following the required ethos or not (see Williams 1998). Is the person who sends her child to a private school because she claims he has special needs that the local state school cannot meet being sincere, or is she just trying to buy him comparative advantage? How can we tell whether the person who claims more money, but merely, he says, as compensation for the unusual stress that his work involves, is reporting honestly? (for Cohen’s response, see Cohen 2008, ch. 8) It appears, then, that there are principles of justice that apply to what Rawls calls ‘the basic structure of society [as] a public system of rules’ that do not apply in the same way to the personal behaviour of the individuals who live within that structure. Attending to the scope , as well as the content , of justice is important.

Recent philosophical writing on justice has drawn attention to forms of injustice that do not involve the material treatment that people receive, either from other persons or from institutions, but the harms they suffer through failures of recognition. They are impacted by social norms and social practices that diminish their sense of agency and induce them to see themselves as of lesser value than others. Here then justice is understood as being adequately and appropriately recognized, and injustice as involving failures of recognition, or in some cases ‘misrecognition’, when a person is placed in a category or assigned an identity that is not their own. In one influential formulation of this idea, ‘it is unjust that some individuals and groups are denied the status of full partners in social interaction simply as a consequence of institutionalized patterns of cultural value in whose construction they have not equally participated and which disparage their distinctive characteristics or the distinctive characteristics assigned to them’ (Fraser in Fraser and Honneth 2003, p. 29).

What, then, does it mean to be recognized? In general it means to be viewed and treated by others in the way that is appropriate to the features that you possess, but most philosophers regard recognition as multidimensional. In particular, they distinguish between being recognized as an equal, where a person is accorded the kind of standing that gives them an equal status with other members of the relevant group, and being recognized for having characteristics, achievements or an identity that may be uniquely their own. Recognition in this second sense may involve the unequal granting of social esteem. Justice as recognition, therefore, is internally complex. At the social level, Axel Honneth distinguishes ‘three forms of social recognition, based in the sphere-specific principles of love, equal legal treatment, and social esteem’ (Fraser and Honneth 2003 p. 180)

The question that arises is how best to understand the relationship between justice of this kind and distributive justice, involving the allocation of material resources and so forth. For Honneth, justice as recognition is understood expansively so that it can also capture issues of economic justice, the thought being that the harm inflicted when, say, labour is not adequately rewarded can be understood as a failure to offer adequate recognition of the worker’s social contribution. For Nancy Fraser, by contrast, recognition and redistribution are seen as two mutually irreducible but jointly necessary conditions for social justice. Failures of recognition can be experienced by some among the economically privileged – such as ‘the African-American Wall Street banker who cannot get a taxi to pick him up’ (Fraser and Honneth 2003, p. 34). Justice as recognition requires cultural shifts in the way that different forms of identity and different types of achievement are valued that are independent of the institutional changes required to achieve distributive justice.

A particular form of recognitional injustice is epistemic injustice as diagnosed by Miranda Fricker (Fricker 2007). This occurs when someone is wronged in their capacity as a source of knowledge, and it takes two main forms: testimonial injustice and hermeneutic injustice. As Fricker explains ‘testimonial injustice occurs when prejudice causes a hearer to give a deflated level of credibility to a speaker’s word; hermeneutical injustice occurs at a prior stage when a gap in collective interpretive resources puts someone as at an unfair disadvantage when it comes to making sense of their social experiences’ (Fricker 2007, p. 1). She argues that testimonial injustice matters for two reasons. First, the person who suffers from it is less able to protect or advance their interests – for example they are less likely to be believed when having to defend themselves in court. Second, since others are unwilling to regard them as competent sources of knowledge, they may lose trust in their own capacity to know, leading in some cases to ‘prolonged self-doubt and loss of intellectual confidence’.

Hermeneutical injustice arises in the context of unequal relationships in which the subordinated party lacks the concept or concepts needed to make sense of their experience (and thereby to challenge their subordination). Fricker uses the example of a woman who suffered sexual harassment at the time before feminists had developed that concept, and so had no adequate word to describe what she was experiencing. Hermeneutical injustice matters most when it is systematic, brought about by power inequalities that leave certain groups ‘hermeneutically marginalised’. However she treats epistemic justice as a virtue that individual hearers can develop, in contrast to recognition theorists like Fraser and Honneth for whom achieving recognitional justice requires collective action to change social and cultural norms on the part of misrecognized groups.

4. Utilitarianism and Justice

Can justice be understood in utilitarian terms? This may in the first place depend on how we interpret utilitarianism. We treat it here as a normative theory whose aim is to supply a criterion – the greatest happiness principle – that can be used, directly or indirectly, both by individuals and by institutions (such as states) in deciding what to do, rather than simply as a tool for evaluating states of affairs. Utilitarianism cannot plausibly provide a theory of justice unless it is interpreted in this action-guiding way, in light of what was said above about justice and agency. We also assume that the most likely candidate will be a rule-utilitarian view that treats principles of justice as belonging to the set of rules which when followed by the relevant agents will tend to produce the greatest total utility (for different ways of formulating this view, see the entry on rule consequentialism) .

Most utilitarians have regarded it as part of their task in defending utilitarianism to show that it can both accommodate and explain much of what we intuitively believe about justice. This is certainly true of two of the greatest among them, John Stuart Mill and Sidgwick, both of whom went to considerable lengths to show that familiar principles of justice could be given a utilitarian rationale (Mill Utilitarianism , ch. 5; Sidgwick 1874/1907, Book III, ch.5). Bentham, in contrast, was more cavalier: ‘justice, in the only sense in which it has a meaning, is an imaginary personage, feigned for the convenience of discourse, whose dictates are the dictates of utility, applied to certain particular cases’ ( The Principles of Morals and Legislation , pp. 125–6). If we follow the lead of Mill and Sidgwick in wishing to take seriously how justice is commonly understood, the utilitarian has two challenges to face. First he or she must show that the demands of justice as commonly understood correspond roughly to the rules that when followed by persons, or implemented by institutions, are most conducive to the greatest happiness. They need not mirror the latter exactly, because utilitarians will argue, as both Mill and Sidgwick did, that our intuitions about justice are often ambiguous or internally inconsistent, but there must be enough overlap to warrant the claim that what the utilitarian theory can accommodate and explain is indeed justice . (As Sidgwick (1874/1907, p. 264) put it, ‘we may, so to speak, clip the ragged edge of common usage, but we must not make excision of any considerable portion’.) Second, some explanation must be given for the distinctiveness of justice. Why do we have a concept that is used to mark off a particular set of requirements and claims if the normative basis for these requirements and claims is nothing other than general utility? What accounts for our intuitive sense of justice? The task confronting the utilitarian, then, is to systematize our understanding of justice without obliterating it.

By way of illustration, both Mill and Sidgwick recognize that desert , of both reward and punishment, is a key component of common understandings of justice, but they argue that if we remain at the level of common sense when we try to analyse it, we run into irresolvable contradictions. For instance, we are inclined to think that a person’s deserts should depend on what they have actually achieved – say the economic value of what they have produced – but also, because achievement will depend on factors for which the person in question can claim no credit, such as inborn talent, that their deserts should depend only on factors for which they are directly responsible, such as the amount of effort they expend. Each of these conceptions, when put into practice, would lead to a quite different schedule of rewards, and the only means to escape the impasse, these utilitarians claim, is to ask which schedule will generate most utility by directing people’s choices and efforts in the most socially productive way. Similar reasoning applies to the principles of punishment: the rules we should follow are the rules that are most conducive to the ends for which punishment is instituted, such as deterring crime.

To explain the distinctiveness of justice, Mill suggests that it designates moral requirements that, because of their very great importance to human well-being, people have a right to have discharged, and are therefore matters of perfect obligation. A person who commits an injustice is always liable to punishment of some kind, he argues. So he explains our sense of justice in terms of the resentment we feel towards someone who breaches these requirements. Sidgwick, who laid greater stress than Mill on the connection between justice and law, also underlined the relationship between justice and gratitude, on one side, and resentment, on the other, in order to capture the way in which our concern for justice seems to differ from our concern for utility in general.

Yet despite these efforts to reconcile justice and utility, three serious obstacles still remain. The first concerns what we might call the currency of justice: justice has to do with the way that tangible benefits and burdens are assigned, and not with the happiness or unhappiness that the assignees experience. It is a matter of justice, for example, that people should be paid the right amount for the jobs that they do, but, special circumstances aside, it is no concern of justice that John derives more satisfaction from his fairly-earned income than Jane does from hers (but see Cohen 1989 for a different view). There is so to speak, a division of labour, under which rights, opportunities, and material benefits of various kinds are allocated by principles of justice, while the conversion of these into units of utility (or disutility) is the responsibility of each individual recipient (see Dworkin 2000, ch. 1). Utilitarians will therefore find it hard to explain what from their point of view seems to be the fetishistic concern of justice over how the means to happiness are distributed, rather than happiness itself.

The second obstacle is that utilitarianism judges outcomes by totalling up utility levels, and has no independent concern for how that utility is distributed between persons. So even if we set aside the currency issue, utilitarian theory seems unable to capture justice’s demand that each should receive what is due to her regardless of the total amount of benefit this generates. Defenders of utilitarianism will argue that when the conduct-guiding rules are being formulated, attention will be paid to distributive questions. In particular, when resources are being distributed among people we know little about individually, there are good reasons to favour equality, since in most cases resources have diminishing marginal utility – the more of them you have, the less satisfaction you derive from additional instalments. Yet this is only a contingent matter. If some people are very adept at turning resources into well-being – they are so-called ‘utility monsters’ – then a utilitarian should support a rule that privileges them. This seems repugnant to justice. As Rawls famously put the general point, ‘each member of society is thought to have an inviolability founded on justice which….even the welfare of every one else cannot override’ (Rawls 1971, p. 28; Rawls 1999, pp. 24–25).

The third and final difficulty stems from utilitarianism’s thoroughgoing consequentialism. Rules are assessed strictly in the light of the consequences of adopting then, not in terms of their intrinsic properties. Of course, when agents follow rules, they are meant to do what the rule requires rather than to calculate consequences directly. But for a utilitarian, it is never going to be a good reason for adopting a rule that it will give people what they deserve or what they are entitled to, when desert or entitlement are created by events in the past, such as a person’s having performed a worthwhile action or entered an agreement. Backward-looking reasons have to be transmuted into forward-looking reasons in order to count. If a rule such as pacta sunt servanda (‘agreements must be kept’) is going to be adopted on utilitarian grounds, this is not because there is any inherent wrongness in defaulting on a compact one has made, but because a rule that compacts must be kept is a useful one, since it allows people to co-ordinate their behaviour knowing that their expectations about the future are likely to be met. But justice, although not always backward-looking in the sense explained, often is. What is due to a person is in many cases what they deserve for what they have done, or what they are entitled to by virtue of past transactions. So even if it were possible to construct a forward-looking rationale for having rules that closely tracked desert or entitlement as these are normally understood, the utilitarian still cannot capture the sense of justice – why it matters that people should get what is due to then – that informs our common-sense judgements.

Utilitarians might reply that their reconstruction preserves what is rationally defensible in common sense beliefs while what it discards are elements that cannot survive sustained critical reflection. But this would bring them closer to Bentham’s view that justice, as commonly understood, is nothing but a ‘phantom’.

5. Contractarianism and Justice

The shortcomings of utilitarianism have prompted several recent philosophers to revive the old idea of the social contract as a better way of bringing coherence to our thinking about justice. The idea here is not that people actually have entered a contract to establish justice, or that they should proceed to do so, but that we can understand justice better by asking the question: what principles to govern their institutions, practices and personal behaviour would people choose to adopt if they all had to agree on them in advance? The contract, in other words, is hypothetical; but the search for agreement is meant to ensure that the principles chosen would, when implemented, not lead to outcomes that people could not accept. Thus whereas a utilitarian might, under some circumstances, be prepared to support slavery – if the misery of the slaves were outweighed by the heightened pleasures of the slave-owners – contractarians claims that no-one could accept a principle permitting slavery, lest they themselves were destined to be slaves when the principle was applied.

The problem that contractarians face is to show how such an agreement is possible. If we were to ask people, in the real world, what principles they would prefer to live under, they are likely to start from a position of quite radical disagreement, given their interests and their beliefs. Some might even be willing to endorse slavery, if they were fairly certain that they would not end up as slaves themselves, or if they were sado-masochists who viewed the humiliations inflicted on slaves in a positive light. So in order to show how agreement could be achieved, contractarians have to model the contracting parties in a particular way, either by limiting what they are allowed to know about themselves or about the future, or by attributing to them certain motivations while excluding others. Since the modelling can be done differently, we have a family of contractarian theories of justice, three of whose most important members are the theories of Gauthier, Rawls and Scanlon.

Gauthier (1986) presents the social contract as a bargain between rational individuals who can gain through co-operating with one another, but who are competing over the division of the resulting surplus. He assumes that each is interested only in trying to maximise his own welfare, and he also assumes that there is a non-co-operative baseline from which the bargaining begins – so nobody would accept a solution that left her less well off than in the baseline condition. Each person can identify the outcome under which they fare best – their maximum gain – but they have no reason to expect others to accept that. Gauthier argues that rational bargainers will converge on the principle of Minimax Relative Concession , which requires each to concede the same relative proportion of their maximum possible gain relative to the non-co-operative baseline. Thus suppose there is a feasible arrangement whereby each participant can achieve two-thirds of their maximum gain, but no arrangement under which they all do better than that, then this is the arrangement that the principle recommends. Each person has made the same concession relative to the outcome that is best for them personally – not accepting the same absolute loss of welfare, let it be noted, but the same proportionate loss.

There are some internal difficulties with Gauthier’s theory that need to be recorded briefly (for a full discussion, see Barry 1989, esp. Part III). One is whether Minimax Relative Concession is in fact the correct solution to the bargaining problem that Gauthier introduces, as opposed to the standard Nash solution which (in a simple two-person case) selects the outcome in which the product of the two parties’ utilities is maximised (for discussion of different solutions to the bargaining problem, see the entry on contemporary approaches to the social contract , § 3.2). A second is whether Gauthier is able to justify positing a ‘Lockean’ baseline, under which each is assumed to respect the natural rights of the others, as the starting point for bargaining over the surplus – as opposed to a more conflictual ‘Hobbesian’ baseline in which individuals are permitted to use their natural powers to threaten one another in the process of establishing what each could expect to get in the absence of co-operation. But the larger question is whether a contract modelled in this way is an appropriate device for delivering principles of justice. On the one hand, it captures the idea that the practice of justice should work to everyone’s advantage, while requiring all those involved to moderate the demands they make on one another. On the other hand, it prescribes a final distribution of benefit that appears morally arbitrary, in the sense that A ’s bargaining advantage over B – which stems from the fact that his maximum possible gain is greater than hers – allows him to claim a higher level of benefit as a matter of justice . This seems implausible: there may be prudential reasons to recommend a distribution that reflects the outcome that self-interested and rational bargainers would arrive at, but claims of justice need a different basis.

John Rawls’ theory of justice is the most widely-cited example of a contractarian theory, but before outlining it, two words of caution are necessary. First, the shape of the theory has evolved from its first incarnation in Rawls (1958) through his major work A Theory of Justice (Rawls 1971) and on to Rawls (1993) and Rawls (2001). Second, although Rawls has consistently claimed that the principles of justice he defends are the principles that would be selected by people in a suitably designed ‘original position’ in which they are asked to choose the social and political institutions they will live under – this is what qualifies his theory as contractarian – it is less clear how important a role the contract itself plays in his thinking. His principles, which are discussed elsewhere (see the entry on John Rawls) , can be defended on their own merits as a theory of social justice for a modern liberal society, even if their contractual grounding proves to be unsound. Rawls presents the contracting parties as seeking to advance their own interests as they decide which principles to favour, but under two informational constraints. First, they are not allowed to know their own ‘conception of the good’ – what ends they personally find it most valuable to pursue – so the principles must be couched in terms of ‘primary goods’, understood as goods that it is better to have more rather than less of whatever conception of the good you favour. Second, they are placed behind a ‘veil of ignorance’ that deprives them of any knowledge of personal characteristics, such as their gender, their place in society, or the talents and skills they possess. This means that they have no basis on which to bargain for advantage, and have to consider themselves as generic persons who might be male or female, talented or untalented, and so forth. In consequence, Rawls argues, all will choose to live under impartial principles that work to no-one’s advantage in particular.

The problem for Rawls, however, is to show that the principles that would be selected in such an original position are in fact recognizable as principles of justice . One might expect the parties to calculate how to weigh the primary goods (which Rawls catalogues as ‘rights and liberties, opportunities and powers, income and wealth’) against each other, and then to choose as their social principle ‘maximise the weighted sum of primary goods, averaged across all persons’. This, however, would bring the theory very close to utilitarianism, since the natural method of weighing primary goods is to ask how much utility having a given quantity of each is likely, on average, to bring (for the claim that utilitarianism would be chosen in a Rawlsian original position, see Harsanyi 1975). Since Rawls wishes to reject utilitarianism, he has to adjust the psychology of the parties in the original position so that they reason differently. Thus he suggests that, at least in developed societies, people have special reason to prioritise liberty over the other goods and to ensure that it is equally distributed: he argues that this is essential to safeguard their self-respect. In later writing his argument is less empirical: now the parties to the contract are endowed with ‘moral powers’ that must be exercised, and it is then fairly easy to show that this requires them to have a set of basic liberties.

When he turns to the distribution of income and wealth, Rawls has to show why his choosers would pick the difference principle, which considers only the position of the worst-off social group, over other principles such as maximising average income across the whole society. In Theory of Justice he does this by attributing special psychological features to the choosers that make it appropriate for them to follow the ‘maximin’ rule for decisions under uncertainty (choose the option whose worst possible outcome is least bad for you). For example, they are said to be much more concerned to achieve the minimum level of income that the difference principle would guarantee them than to enjoy increases above that level. In his later work, he abandons this reliance on maximin reasoning and gives greater prominence to another argument hinted at in Theory . This portrays the contracting parties as starting out from the presumption that income and wealth should be distributed equally, but then recognizing that all can benefit by permitting certain inequalities to arise. When these inequalities are governed by the difference principle, they can be justified to everyone, including the worst off, thus creating the conditions for a more stable society. But we need then to ask why equal distribution should be treated as the benchmark, departures from which require special justification. When Rawls says that it is ‘not reasonable’ for any of the parties initially to expect more than an equal share (Rawls 1971, p. 150; Rawls 1999, p. 130), is this simply a corollary of their position as rational choosers behind a veil of ignorance, or has Rawls in addition endowed them with a substantive sense of justice that includes this presumption of equality?

Although Rawls throughout presents his theory of justice as contractarian, we can now see that the terms of the contract are in part determined by prior normative principles that Rawls engineers the parties to follow. So in contrast to Gauthier, it is no longer simply a case of self-interested contractors negotiating their way to an agreement. Rawls candidly admits that the contractual situation has to be adjusted so that it yields results that match our pre-existing convictions about justice. But then we may ask how much work the contractual apparatus is really doing (see Barry 1989, ch. 9 for a critical appraisal).

Scanlon (1998) does not attempt to deliver a theory of justice in the same sense as Rawls, but his contractarian account of that part of morality that specifies ‘what we owe to each other’ covers much of the same terrain (for an explicit attempt to analyse justice in Scanlonian terms, see Barry 1995). Like Rawls, Scanlon is concerned to develop an alternative to utilitarianism, and he does so by developing a test that any candidate moral principle must pass: it must be such that no-one could reasonably reject it as the basis for informed, unforced general agreement (see the entry on contractualism ). Scanlon’s contractors are not positioned behind a veil of ignorance. They are able to see what effect adopting any proposed principle would have on them personally. If that effect is unacceptable to them, they are permitted to reject it. Each person has, so to speak, a veto on any general principle for regulating conduct. Those that survive this test are defensible as principles of justice – Scanlon concedes that there might be alternative sets of such principles appropriate to different social conditions.

It might seem, however, that giving each person a veto would lead straightforwardly to deadlock, since anyone might reject a principle under which he fared badly relative to some alternative. Here the idea of reasonable rejection becomes important. It would not, Scanlon thinks, be reasonable to reject a principle under which one does badly if the alternatives all involve someone else faring worse still. One needs to take account of other people’s reasons for rejecting these alternatives. It might then appear that Scanlon’s contractualism yields the difference principle, which requires the worst-off group in society to be as well of as they can be. But this is not the conclusion that Scanlon draws (though he acknowledges that there might be special reasons to follow Rawls in requiring basic social institutions to follow the difference principle). The claims of other groups must be considered too. If a policy greatly benefits many others, while slightly worsening the position of a few, though without leaving them very badly off, it may well not be rejectable. Scanlon’s position leaves some room for aggregation – it makes a difference how many people will be benefitted if a principle is followed – though not the simple form of aggregation that utilitarians defend.

Scanlon also says that a person can have a reason for rejecting a principle if it treats them unfairly, say by benefitting some but not others for arbitrary reasons. This presupposes a norm of fairness that the contractarian theory does not itself attempt to explain or justify. So it looks as though the purpose of the theory is to provide a distinctive account of moral reasoning (and moral motivation) but not to defend any substantive principles of distributive justice. In this respect, Scanlon’s contractualism is less ambitious than either Gauthier’s or Rawls’.

6. Egalitarianism and Justice

In the recent past, many philosophers have sought to establish a close connection between justice and equality: they ask the question ‘what kind of equality does justice require?’, and to that several competing answers have been given (see, for example Cohen 1989, Dworkin 2000, Sen 1980). But we should not be too hasty to assume that what justice demands is always equality, whether of treatment or of outcome. Perhaps it does so only in a formal sense. As we saw in sect 1.3, justice requires the impartial and consistent application of rules, from which it follows that when two people are alike in all relevant respects, they must be treated equally. But, as Aristotle among others saw, justice also involves the idea of proportional treatment, which implies recipients getting unequal amounts of whatever good is at issue (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics , Book V, ch. 3). If A is twice as deserving or twice as needy as B , justice may require that she receives more than B does. So here formal equality of treatment – the same rule applied to both – leads to an unequal outcome. Again, when justice takes the conservative form of respect for existing entitlements or legitimate expectations (see para 2.1) there is no reason to anticipate that what is due to different people will be substantively the same.

So we need to ask about the circumstances in which justice requires a substantively equal distribution of advantages. One rather obvious case occurs when the members of the group within which the distribution is going to occur have no relevant distinguishing features, so there are no grounds on which some can claim greater shares of benefit than others. Suppose a group experiences a windfall gain for which no-one can claim any credit: a pot of gold somehow appears in their midst. Then unless any member can make a justice-related claim for a larger-than-equal share – say that she has special needs that she lacks sufficient resources to meet – an equal distribution of the gold is what justice demands, since any other distribution would be arbitrary. Equality here is the default principle that applies in the absence of any special claims that can be presented as reasons of justice.

Equality also acts as a default in circumstances where, although people may indeed have unequal claims to whatever good is being distributed, we have no reliable way of identifying and measuring those claims. By sharing the good equally, we can at least ensure that every claim has been partially satisfied. Thus suppose we have limited supplies of a drug that can treat malaria, and a number of patients displaying symptoms of the disease, but lacking specialised medical knowledge we cannot tell whether one person’s condition is more serious than another’s; then by sharing out the drug equally, we can guarantee that each person at least receives the highest fraction of what they really need. Any other distribution must leave at least one person with less (this of course assumes that there is no threshold amount of the drug beneath which it is ineffective; if that assumption is wrong, justice under the stated conditions might require a lottery in which the chosen ones receive threshold-size doses).

If justice requires equality only by default, it might seem to apply only in a narrow range of cases. How could egalitarian justice be made more robust? One approach involves declaring a wider range of factors irrelevant to just distribution. Thus one formulation of the principle holds that no-one should be worse-off than anyone else as a result of their ‘morally arbitrary’ characteristics, where a characteristic is morally arbitrary when its possessor cannot claim credit for having it. This captures a widespread intuition that people should not be advantaged or disadvantaged by virtue of their race or gender, but extends it (more controversially) to all personal features with a genetic basis, such as natural talents and inborn dispositions. In doing so, it discounts most claims of desert, since when people are said to deserve benefits of various kinds, it is usually for performing actions or displaying qualities that depend upon innate characteristics such as strength or intelligence. In the following section, we will see how egalitarian theories of justice have tried to incorporate some desert-like elements by way of response. But otherwise justice as equality and justice as desert appear to be in conflict, and the challenge is to show what can justify equal treatment in the face of inequalities of desert.

A second approach answers this challenge by explaining why it is positively valuable to afford people equal treatment even if they do display features that might appear to justify differential treatment. A prominent advocate of this approach is Dworkin, who argues that fundamental to justice is a principle of equal concern and respect for persons, and what this means in more concrete term is that equal resources should be devoted to the life of each member of society (Dworkin 2000). (The reference to membership here is not redundant, because Dworkin understands egalitarian justice as a principle that must be applied within sovereign states specifically – so in the terms of 3.2, this is a relational view of justice.) The thought is that showing persons equal respect may sometimes require us to afford them equal treatment, even in the face of relevant grounds for discrimination. Thus we insist on political equality – one person, one vote – even though we know that there are quite large differences in people’s competence to make political decisions.

As noted above, justice as simple equality of treatment seems open to the objection that it fails to acknowledge the agency of the recipients, who may have acted in ways that appear to qualify them to receive more (or less) of whatever benefit is being distributed. To answer this objection, several recent philosophers have presented alternative versions of ‘responsibility-sensitive egalitarianism’ – a family of theories of justice that treat equal distribution as a starting point but allow for departures from that baseline when these result from the responsible choices made by individuals (see Knight and Stemplowska 2011 for examples). These theories differ along several dimensions: the ‘currency of justice’ used to define the baseline of equality, the conditions that must be fulfilled for a choice to qualify as responsible, and which among the consequences that follow from a choice should count when the justice of an outcome is being assessed (it may in particular appear unjust to allow people to suffer the full consequences of bad choices that they could not reasonably have anticipated). The label that is often used to describe a sub-class of these theories is ‘luck egalitarianism’. According to luck egalitarians, justice requires that no-one should be disadvantaged relative to others on account of ‘brute’ bad luck, whereas inequalities that arise through the exercise of personal responsibility are permissible (for a full discussion of luck egalitarianism, see the entry on justice and bad luck ). ‘Brute’ luck is interpreted widely to include not only external circumstances such as one person’s initially having access to more resources than another, but also internal factors such as possessing natural abilities or disabilities, or having involuntarily acquired expensive tastes. All such inequalities are to be ironed out by redistribution or compensation, while people’s choices about how to use the assets they are granted should be respected, even if this leads to significant inequality in the long run.

Luck egalitarianism has proved surprisingly influential in recent debates on justice, despite the evident difficulties involved in, for example, quantifying ‘brute luck disadvantage’ in such a way that a compensatory scheme could be established. There are, however, a number of problems it has to face. By giving scope to personal responsibility, it seeks to capture what is perhaps the most attractive part of the conventional idea of desert – that people should be rewarded for making good choices and penalised for making bad ones – while filtering out the effects of having (undeserved) natural talents. But in reality the choices that people make are influenced by the talents and other qualities that they happen to have already. So if we allow someone to reap advantages by, for example, devoting long hours to learning to play the piano at a high level, we must recognize that this is a choice that she would almost certainly not have made unless early experiment showed that she was musically gifted. We cannot say what she would have chosen to do in a counterfactual world in which she was tone deaf. There seems then to be no coherent half-way house between accepting full-blooded desert and denying that people can justly claim relative advantage through the exercise of responsibility and choice (see further Miller 1999, ch. 7) .

A second problem is that one person’s exercise of responsibility may prove advantageous or disadvantageous to others, even though they have done nothing to bring this change about, so from their point of view it must count as ‘brute’ luck. This will be true, for example, in any case in which people are competing to excel in some field, where successful choices made by A will worsen the comparative position of B , C , and D . Or again, if A acts in a way that benefits B , but does nothing comparable to improve the position of C and D , then an inequality is created that counts as ‘brute bad luck’ from the perspective of the latter. One of the most influential exponents of luck egalitarianism seems to have recognized the problem in a late essay: ‘unlike plain egalitarianism, luck egalitarianism is paradoxical, because the use of shares by people is bound to lead to a distribution flecked by luck’ (Cohen 2011, p. 142).

We have seen that equality can sometimes be understood as required by justice; but it can also be valued independently. Indeed there can be circumstances in which the two values collide, because what justice demands is inequality of outcome. The kind of inequality that is independently valuable is social equality, best understood as a property of the relationships that prevail within a society: people regard and treat each other as social equals, and the society’s institutions are designed to foster and reflect such attitudes. A society of equals contrasts with one in which people belong to different ranks in a social hierarchy, and behave towards one another as their relative ranking prescribes. Different reasons can be given for objecting to social inequality, and conversely for valuing social equality (see Scanlon 2003).

Those who find equality valuable for reasons other than reasons of distributive justice are often described as ‘relational egalitarians’ (see Anderson 1999, Wolff 1998, Fourie, Schuppert and Wallimann-Helmer 2015). It is tempting to regard relational egalitarianism as a rival theory of justice to the luck egalitarian theory outlined in §6.2, but it may be more illuminating to see it instead as providing an alternative account of why we should care about limiting material inequality. Thus, faced with a world like the one we currently inhabit in which income differences are very large, justice theorists are likely to criticize these inequalities on grounds that they are not deserved, or arise from brute luck, etc., whereas relational egalitarians will say that they create a divided society in which people are alienated from each other, and cannot interact in a mutually respectful way. Relational equality does not address issues of distribution directly, and so cannot function as a theory of justice itself, but it can provide grounds for preferring one theory of justice to its rivals – namely that implementing that particular theory is more likely to create or sustain a society of equals.

We saw at the beginning of this article that justice can take a number of different forms, depending on the practical context in which it is being applied. Although we found common elements running through this diversity of use – most readily captured in Justinian’s ‘suum cuique ’ formula – these were formal rather than substantive. In these circumstances, it is natural to look for an overarching framework into which the various contextually specific conceptions of justice can all be fitted. Three such frameworks were examined: utilitarianism, contractarianism and egalitarianism. None, however, passed what we might call the ‘Sidgwick/Rawls test’, namely that of incorporating and explaining the majority at least of our considered convictions about justice – beliefs that we feel confident in holding about what justice requires us to do in a wide and varied range of circumstances (for Rawls’ version of the test see the entry on reflective equilibrium ). So unless we are willing to jettison many of these convictions in order to uphold one or other general framework, we will need to accept that no comprehensive theory of justice is available to us; we will have to make do with partial theories – theories about what justice requires in particular domains of human life. Rawls himself, despite the bold title of his first book ( A Theory of Justice ), came to recognize that what he had outlined was at best a theory of social justice applied to the basic institutional structure of a modern liberal state. Other forms of justice – familial, allocative, associational, international – with their associated principles would be applicable in their respective domains (for an even more explicitly pluralist account of justice, see Walzer 1983; for a fuller defence of a contextual approach to justice, see Miller 2013, esp. ch. 2).

One way to loosen up our thinking about justice is by paying greater attention to the history of the concept. We can learn a great deal by reading what Aristotle, or Aquinas, or Hume, has to say about the concept, but as we do so, we also see that elements we would expect to find are missing (there is nothing about rights in Aristotle, for example), while others that we would not anticipate are present. This may in some part be due to the idiosyncrasies of each thinker, but more importantly it reflects differences in the form of social life in which each was embedded – its economic, legal and political structure, especially. Various attempts have been made to write histories of justice that are more than just catalogues of what individual thinkers have said: they aim to trace and explain systematic shifts in the way that justice has been interpreted (for contrasting examples, see MacIntyre 1988, Fleischacker 2004, Johnston 2011). These should not be read as enlightenment stories in which our understanding of justice steadily improves as the centuries roll by. MacIntyre’s view, for example, is that modern liberal societies cannot sustain the practices within which notions of justice find their proper home. We can get a better grasp of what justice means to us by seeing the various conceptions that compete for our attention as tied to aspects of our social world that did not exist in the past, and are equally liable to disappear in the future.

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  • Justice , course lectures by Michael Sandel
  • Justice Everywhere , a group blog about justice in public affairs

Aristotle, General Topics: ethics | consequentialism | consequentialism: rule | contractualism | feminist philosophy, topics: perspectives on reproduction and the family | justice: as a virtue | justice: distributive | justice: global | justice: intergenerational | justice: international distributive | justice: retributive | justice: transitional | luck: justice and bad luck | Rawls, John | reflective equilibrium | social contract: contemporary approaches to

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Institutions of Law: An Essay in Legal Theory

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15 On Law and Justice

  • Published: January 2007
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This chapter argues that law is necessarily geared to some conception of justice, taking account of distributive, retributive, and corrective aspects of justice, to all of which respect for the rule of law is, in the context of the state's capability for coercion, essential. It is ‘necessarily geared’ to it in the sense that anyone engaged in its administration, whether in a legislative, executive, or judicial capacity, can only be justified in implementing, amending, or interpreting provisions of the system given a certain condition. This is that they can give grounds for holding that some reasonable conception of justice is satisfied by the provision in question, or that it pursues some element of a reasonably assessed common good in a way that is reasonably coherent with the relevant conception of justice.

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Home — Essay Samples — Law, Crime & Punishment — Judiciary — Justice

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Essays on Justice

Hook examples for justice essays, anecdotal hook.

Step into a courtroom, where the pursuit of justice unfolds before our eyes. As the gavel strikes and decisions are made, the impact of justice reverberates through society. Join me on a journey to explore the complexities and significance of justice.

Quotation Hook

""Justice delayed is justice denied."" These words, attributed to William E. Gladstone, emphasize the importance of timely and fair justice. Let's delve into the profound implications of justice in our world.

Justice and Human Rights Hook

Justice and human rights are inextricably linked. Explore how the concept of justice intersects with the protection of fundamental human rights, shaping our understanding of justice on a global scale.

Historical Perspectives on Justice Hook

Justice has evolved over centuries, often in response to historical events and societal changes. Delve into the historical context of justice, from ancient legal systems to pivotal moments in the fight for civil rights.

Justice in the Legal System Hook

Justice is a cornerstone of the legal system. Analyze the principles and mechanisms that underpin justice in legal proceedings, from the presumption of innocence to the role of juries in delivering verdicts.

Social Justice and Equity Hook

Justice extends beyond legal proceedings to issues of social justice and equity. Investigate how societies address inequality, discrimination, and the pursuit of a more just and equitable world.

Modern Challenges in Justice Hook

Justice remains a pressing concern in the modern world. Explore contemporary challenges and debates surrounding justice, including issues related to criminal justice reform, restorative justice, and access to justice.

Justice in Antigone: Divine Law Versus Human Authority

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Poverty and The Existing Gap Between The Rich and Poor

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Injustice in Treatment of Disabled People in Society

The juvenile justice system as a major concern of law enforcement, political and social injustice in america, guilty or not guilty: the delicate balance of seeking for justice in 12 angry men, american criminal justice system: the different stages of an arrest, religion and critical thinking: a union created by dostoyevsky, criminal liability: insanity and automatism, analysis of the shared relationship between ‘the press’ and ‘liberty’, what is the difference between restorative and retributive justice, the survival of the middle passage: the path to justice, respect for the law and how it can be achieved, comparison of restorative and retributive/punitive justice, the nature of us civil justice system in a civil action by jonathan harr, the moral issue of torture and war crimes, the case of lagrand brothers, a landmark case of dollree mapp in the american justice system, review on a judicial management, the  procedure for compounding, an analysis of the differences between the british and american criminal justice systems, contrast liability in tort with contractual liability.

Justice, in its broadest sense, is the principle that people receive that which they deserve, with the interpretation of what then constitutes "deserving" being impacted upon by numerous fields, with many differing viewpoints and perspectives, including the concepts of moral correctness based on ethics, rationality, law, religion, equity and fairness.

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essay on law and justice

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A Level Law Review

Justice and the law

essay on law and justice

Completing the jigsaw: rules of the tort of negligence

Exploring perspectives on the concept of justice and its application in the English legal system

  • Volume 17, 2021/ 2022
  • Nature of law
  • Law and justice

Hannah Eldridge

essay on law and justice

This article is relevant to AQA Papers 1 and 3 and OCR Component 3.

What is justice? It is a difficult concept to define as people have different perspectives on what constitutes justice. The interpretation of the term therefore depends on a value judgment. While one of the fundamental principles of law is that justice should be achieved, whether it has or not comes down to individual opinion.

A simple interpretation of the word justice is ‘fairness’. The law should be fair in how it treats all members of society in a democracy. It should apply equally to everyone, irrespective of their status or wealth.

There are many theories and perspectives on justice. The philosopher Chaïm Perelman stated that justice requires ‘the equal treatment of beings who are essentially alike’. In common with other theorists, he saw equality as being at the heart of justice, but that did not necessarily mean that justice required all people to be treated in the same way.

Theories of justice

Natural law theory

Natural law theorists believe that the rules of right and wrong are inherent in people and are not created by societal norms or judges. The Greek philosopher Aristotle argued that a just state will distribute its wealth on the basis of merit, giving to each according to their virtue and their contribution to society. He believed that the people who are the worthiest or most deserving should receive the greatest share of resources. He thought that it would be unfair to allocate resources on the basis of people’s needs, as it would reward the lazy as much as the hard-working.

You could consider how this would apply in today’s society with a welfare state that pays for healthcare and care for the elderly, as well as legal aid for those on low incomes.

Positivist theory

Positivist theory is a view that law is a social construction and that rules or laws are valid because they are enacted by legitimate authority and are accepted by society. Thomas Hobbes argued that ‘it is improbable for any statute to be unjust.’ Statutes (Acts of Parliament) are democratic because they are made by an elected parliament and can be seen as just because the law is made by a sovereign body and goes through many checks and debates before being enacted.

However, many statutes are outdated, for example the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. When the law was written, bodily harm was understood to mean physical harm, but the law now recognises that it can include psychiatric harm. Judges have interpreted the law to fit with contemporary conditions in modern society but it could be argued that outdated laws should be amended by Parliament rather than leaving judges to make sense of them.

Another criticism of positivist theory is that unjust laws are considered valid simply because they have been made according to the established legislative process, regardless of their content. This was an issue raised in the famous Hart-Fuller debate over the validity of unjust Nazi laws. Fuller took a natural law perspective, whereas Hart argued a positivist viewpoint on the issue.

Utilitarian theory

Jeremy Bentham developed a theory of utilitarianism according to which the more an action increases overall happiness, the more valuable it is. This theory sees maximising happiness in society as the main objective when trying to achieve justice. However, this theory could be seen as unjust if the overall happiness of society takes priority over that of the individual.

Procedural justice

In any legal system, there are two important forms of justice: procedural and substantive justice. Procedural justice (sometimes referred to as formal justice) means that procedures and systems are put in place to ensure that justice is achieved. There should be a legal framework in place so that all members of society are equal before the law. If these procedures are in place and are used effectively then there is said to be procedural justice. In the UK, there are many legal institutions, such as the police, courts, judiciary, juries and appeals systems, that provide a structure in which justice can be achieved.

Procedural justice can also be seen in rules securing the right to a fair trial and the rule relating to trial by jury. At the heart of the criminal trial is the presumption of innocence, which acts to protect defendants and places the burden on the prosecution to establish the case beyond reasonable doubt. Juries are randomly selected members of the public who, to ensure a fair trial, have no link to or personal knowledge of anyone involved in the case.

However, there are criticisms of the jury system, such as the fact that a jury may be influenced by media pressure and make perverse decisions that go against the law. If a jury reaches a verdict based on bias, then justice has not been achieved.

Procedural injustice and Stephen Lawrence

In 1993, Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death in a racially motivated attack in London. The subsequent police investigation led to an inquiry and the McPherson Report being published. In this report, it was found that the family of Stephen Lawrence did not achieve justice due to police failures during the investigation. It was not until 2012 that two of the five suspects were convicted of murder. The report was critical of how the Metropolitan Police investigated the murder, stating that they were ‘institutionally racist’.

Substantive justice

Substantive justice refers to the fairness of the law itself and its outcomes, rather than the processes and systems that surround it. You could look at any area of law (contract law, tort law, criminal law or human rights) and explore whether a specific law achieves substantive justice.

Criminal law

In criminal law, it could be argued that strict liability offences do not achieve justice (see pp. 16–17). A strict liability offence is one where the defendant can be found guilty if they commit the actus reus of the offence without proof of mens rea. Examples include many road traffic offences such as speeding, the sale of cigarettes and alcohol to minors, and pollution offences. The danger with such offences is that the defendant could be liable even when they are not at fault, as seen in the case of Harrow London Borough Council v Shah (1999) where a lottery ticket was sold to someone who looked 16 but was underaged.

Criminal law provides defendants with a range of possible defences. It recognises the fact that a person may not always be at fault. The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 created a defence of loss of control for the crime of murder. This is a partial defence which, if successful, reduces murder to manslaughter. The defence recognises that a defendant may have been so angry and distressed that their actions resulted in murder. While the defendant may not be fully to blame, is it morally right and just that we allow a defence to someone who cannot exercise self-control? It could be seen to reduce the seriousness of a killing and therefore create injustice for the victim’s family.

essay on law and justice

Law of tort

In the law of tort, Rylands v Fletcher (1868) has been considered a strict liability tort, meaning that the defendant is liable even if they did not know the danger. This can be seen as unfair on a defendant who is taking all reasonable care to prevent a danger. However, the result of Cambridge Water v Eastern Counties Leather (1992) means that defendants will only be liable where the damage is reasonably foreseeable. The potential unfairness to the defendant is further reduced by the availability of defences, such as an act of God.

Distributive justice

Many theorists have written about the concept of distributive justice, which means that the law should provide justice for all. In other words, justice should be distributed equally, regardless of class, age, gender and race.

Karl Marx believed that in a capitalist society, all laws are unjust. He argued that the law was used to protect and benefit the ruling class rather than the interest of all people in society. Marx believed that justice could be achieved with the redistribution of wealth from the rich (the bourgeoisie) to the working class (the proletariat). There are many examples that support Marx’s theory that law perpetuates inequality. One example is access to justice and legal representation. The wealthy in society are able to pay for the fees of a more senior and experienced lawyer (solicitor or barrister) to advise and represent them.

However, in order to achieve justice, there should be ‘equality of arms’ within the law, meaning that parties should be on an equal footing. It is difficult to see how this could occur in a case where an individual is involved with larger organisations or businesses. A claimant suing for negligence is unlikely to be able to afford the same level of legal counsel as a large corporation. Therefore, the parties are not on an equal footing from the start. An example of this imbalance can be seen in the ‘McLibel’ case ( Steel and Morris v UK, 2001).

Justice can be achieved by the duty solicitor scheme in England and Wales, which allows anyone who is arrested to have access to a solicitor at the police station for free. This ensures that a suspect has legal advice before and during police questioning. This right has been reduced in recent years, as many duty solicitors provide advice over the telephone as opposed to in person.

Distributive justice is often not achieved for people from minority ethnic backgrounds. This is supported by data on stop-and-search powers, which show that a person is nine times more likely to be stopped and searched if they are black. We have already discussed the killing of Stephen Lawrence and the failures in the murder investigation, but this highlights the fact that there is inequality and injustice in the criminal justice system. It could be argued that a predominantly white judiciary lacks the diversity needed to address the issue of racial inequality.

Corrective justice

Corrective justice focuses on the law providing a fair remedy. In criminal law, this is achieved through sentencing, whereas in civil law, this is achieved by paying the claimant damages or awarding some other remedy.

essay on law and justice

In criminal law, the most dangerous offenders receive a custodial sentence. If someone is convicted of murder, they must receive a life sentence in order to protect society. Life imprisonment sends out a deterrent message that murderers will face severe punishment, and it also provides justice to the victim’s family, who will know that the offender is being punished.

Corrective justice is undermined if the offender reoffends or does not serve a fair prison sentence. Current reoffending rates for those released from prison are high, which implies that an offender’s behaviour will not change if they do not serve a fair sentence. Prison is also expensive and on average costs the state £40,000 a year for an adult offender. The UK has one of the highest prison populations in Europe, which could mean that offenders are kept in prison for an unjust length of time.

When writing an essay on law and justice, you can use any examples of justice or injustice that you have studied during your course. There are many examples you can draw upon from the English legal system, as well as areas of criminal, tort, contract and human rights law. You will need to discuss the extent to which they achieve justice.

Discuss at least two theories and theorists. There is no need to discuss all of the theories of justice in great detail.

In civil law, the award of damages is a key remedy. The financial compensation is a recognition of the harm and injury the defendant has caused and is a form of corrective justice, as it provides a remedy to the claimant. This is problematic however, as there is no legal aid available for most claims in tort law, and claims for damages are generally brought using a ‘no win, no fee’ agreement. These agreements can be seen as unjust, as solicitors will take a percentage of any damages awarded and usually only take cases that they are likely to win, which is a disadvantage to those unable to pay for their own legal representation. Further injustice may be caused if a person is awarded damages by the court but the defendant has no funds to pay those damages.

Hannah Eldridge is an experienced senior examiner and has taught law in a sixth form college in Norfolk for 17 years.

There are different theories and perspectives on justice:

■ Substantive justice refers to the content of the law and its outcomes.

■ Procedural justice refers to the processes and systems that accompany the law and legal system.

■ Utilitarian theory measures justice in terms of whether something maximises the happiness of the greatest number of people.

■ Distributive justice considers whether benefits and rewards are distributed fairly across society.

■ Corrective justice is concerned with addressing unfairness e.g. through sentencing in criminal law or the award of a remedy in civil law.

essay on law and justice


English legal system and criminal law

Use these questions to help you prepare for AQA Paper 1

1 In criminal law, which one of the following elements is not part of the gross negligence manslaughter offence?

a Duty of care

b Breach of the duty of care

c The Church test for dangerous acts

d The risk-of-death objective test

2 In criminal law, which one of the following statements about attempts is false?

a A defendant’s belief that they are engaged in a criminal offence will not support liability for an attempt of an offence that is factually or legally impossible to commit.

b A defendant’s belief that they are engaged in a criminal offence will support liability for an attempt of an offence that is factually or legally impossible to commit.

c Attempting to commit an offence that is factually or legally impossible is recognised by s.1(2) and s.1(3) of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981.

d The case of R v Shivpuri (1986) illustrates the importance of belief for establishing an attempt to commit an offence that is factually or legally impossible under s.1(3) of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981.

3 In criminal law, which one of the following elements is not part of the actus reus of the offence of murder?

a The killing takes place under the king or queen’s peace.

b The victim is a ‘reasonable creature in being’.

c The killing is unlawful.

d The victim must die within a year and a day of the commission of the offence.

4 In criminal law, which of the following options is not an element of the partial defence to murder of loss of control?

a The qualifying triggers of fear of violence and/or things said and done.

b The defendant experiencing a total loss of self-control.

c The defendant experiencing a sudden and total loss of self-control.

d An objective test to see if ‘a person of the defendant’s sex and age, with a normal degree of tolerance and selfrestraint and in the circumstances of the defendant, might have reacted in the same or similar way to the defendant’.

5 In the criminal courts, which one of the following judges will not sit in the Crown Court to hear indictable cases?

a District judge

b Circuit judge

d High Court judge

Andrew Mitchell


Check your answers at www.hoddereducation.co.uk/lawreviewextras

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What ‘Justice’ Really Means

The word has taken a beating in the past few weeks. But what role does it truly play in our lives?

essay on law and justice

By Paul Bloomfield

Mr. Bloomfield is a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut.

It’s a staple of common sense that we don’t let judges try their own cases. Yet if we are to gain self-knowledge, we all must do just that: We must judge ourselves to know ourselves. While we typically think of justice as a virtue of social arrangements or political institutions, the United States has recently bore witness to this virtue in its first-person aspect — self-regarding justice — while watching the confirmation hearings of a Supreme Court Justice.

The virtue of justice requires not only that we judge others fairly, but also that we judge ourselves fairly. This is no mean feat. The trouble is that if a person is a poor judge of him or herself, it is hard to imagine that person being a good judge of others. Bias toward the self often leads to bias against others. Justice begins within ourselves.

While justice is important for each of us in our personal lives, it becomes strikingly important when we think of those in positions of power. We need leaders motivated by a love of justice and not merely self-aggrandizement. Leadership without an inner moral compass reliably pointing toward justice inevitably ends in the abuse of power.

Philosophically, all virtues are ideals that we can only approach without fully attaining them. So, we can always aspire to do better. Given this, what role does the virtue of justice play in our personal lives? What role ought it to play?

In fact there are two roles: Justice functions both in our epistemology, or how we form and justify our beliefs, as well as in practical morality, informing our private and public behavior. These ought to be entwined in our lives since we ought not only think in a fair and just manner but also act accordingly.

The apotheosis of justice is the courtroom judge, interpreting the law and ruling on evidence concerning innocence and guilt. Model judges are epistemically just: Their cognitive processes are never biased or unduly swayed, their conclusions are not prejudged, and their verdicts reliably correspond to the facts. Truth is their goal. Not only must there be no thumb on the scale, the evidence must be balanced while wearing a blindfold. The rulings of judges, however, are also undeniably moral, bearing as they do on issues of justice, restitution and the execution of punishment.

Just people are wise in the ways of fairness, equality, desert and mercy. They are normally pacific. Just people mind their own business, except when they see and call out injustice, speaking truth to power, which they’ll do even at a personal cost. Justice questions authority.

Just people also question themselves. This makes them honest and non-self-deceptive. They vigilantly maintain a clear conscience. Just people are cognizant of their own mistakes and faults, and so they are forgiving of others. They respect who they actually are and not whom they merely wish they were, and their authentic self-respect makes them respectful of others. People who are just do as they say and say as they do: their word is their bond. They are capable of great loyalty and fidelity, but not without limit.

The central epistemic principles of justice require like cases to be treated alike, as captured legally by the concepts of the rule of law and precedent . Weak and strong, rich and poor, all are equal before the law (where this must include the Supreme Court justices and presidents of the United States). While applying general principles alone is sufficient for clear, ordinary cases, a fine sensitivity, experience and reflection is necessary for reliably judging unusual or exceptional cases. Well-developed justice requires expertise in making hard “judgment calls.”

The central moral principles of justice require us to give proper respect to one another : Each of us must recognize the other as a person and not merely as an object. Each of us may testify. The least common denominator among us is that we are all human beings. In addition to that, we each have particular features making us all unique. Justice pays proper attention to what we have in common and to what sets us apart.

In discussing justice as a personal virtue, Aristotle said that being just, “ is a mean between committing injustice and suffering it, since the one is having more than one’s share, while the other is having less .” As recklessness and cowardice are opposing vices of courage, arrogance and servility are opposing vices of justice.

From sidewalk sexual harassment to the obstruction of justice, all abuses of power involve an unjust willingness to greedily arrogate more than one’s due. Typically, those who abuse their strength or cheat, and then don’t get caught or punished, self-deceptively think they’ve “beaten the system” and “won.” But fooling others into thinking you have earned a victory is not the same as genuinely being victorious. Cheaters fool themselves when they elide this difference.

The other way to fail justice is by judging ourselves to be less worthy than we truly are. This is sadly common among oppressed people, but it also arises among the affluent and powerful under the guise of the “impostor syndrome.” Humility has its place, but we shouldn’t overdo it, nor let it interfere with the intellectual courage required to call out injustice. Those who unfairly put themselves down or are servile, for whatever reason, are doing themselves an injustice by willfully accepting less than their fair share.

Given all this, the virtue of justice plays an important role in families and friendships, between neighbors and citizens, colleagues and clients, acquaintances and strangers. But it is also central to being a good person and living happily, and not merely deceiving oneself into believing that one is a good person and that one is happy.

Bringing justice fully into our lives, thinking in terms of it, will make us more circumspect. We are all too fallible. But it is often the case that we are much better at spotting the faults of others than we are at spotting faults in ourselves. Our blind spots are conveniently located to keep us from seeing our own weaknesses. What a coincidence!

Life is neither just nor fair: Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. This, however, only increases our obligation to be as just and fair as we can be, to be honest with ourselves as well as others, to try to correct injustice when we see it, and to do as much right in this unfair world as we can.

Paul Bloomfield is a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut and the author of “ The Virtues of Happiness .”

Now in print : “ Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments ,” and “ The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments ,” with essays from the series, edited by Peter Catapano and Simon Critchley, published by Liveright Books.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter .

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Essays About Justice: Top 5 Examples and 7 Prompts

Discover our guide with examples of essays about justice and prompts for your essay writing and discuss vital matters relating to a person’s or nation’s welfare. 

Justice, in general, refers to the notion that individuals get what they deserve. It includes fundamental moral values ​​in law and politics and is considered an act of fairness, equality, and honesty. Four types of justice deal with how victims can solicit a verdict. They are procedural, distributive, retributive, and restorative. There are many pieces with justice as the subject. It’s because justice is a broad subject encompassing many human values.

5 Essay Examples

1. juvenile justice system of usa essay by anonymous on ivypanda.com, 2. wrongful convictions in criminal justice system by anonymous on gradesfixer.com, 3. racial profiling within the criminal justice system by anonymous on papersowl.com, 4. criminal justice: the ban-the-box law by anonymous on ivypanda.com, 5. the special needs of the criminal justice on mental illness cases by anonymous on gradesfixer.com, 1. what is justice, 2. is justice only for the rich and powerful, 3. the importance of justice, 4. the justice system in mainstream media, 5. justice: then vs. now, 6. justice system around the world, 7. obstructions to justice.

“No doubt, familiarity about the nature of juvenile crimes and how juvenile justice structures function across the world will offer an insight to policy makers, social scientists and for gullible citizens. Thus, a comparative analysis will throw light on how well or how poorly one nation is exercising relative to other nations.”

The essay delves into the justice system process for teenagers who are 18 years and below who commit wrongful acts. Most teenagers involved in juvenile crimes do not have a strong foundation or parental support. The author also talks about the treatments, boot camps, and retreat houses available for teenagers serving in juvenile prisons.

The ever-increasing number of juvenile crimes in the world reflects the mismanagement and lack of juvenile courts, sentencing programs, rehabilitation, and age-appropriate treatment. The writer believes that if mistrials remain in the juvenile system, the problem will continue. They suggest that the government must initiate more system reforms and provide juvenile offenders with proper ethical education.

“The justice system is composed of various legal groups and actors, making a miscarriage possible at any stage of the legal process, or at the hands of any legal actor. Eyewitness error, police misconduct, or falsification of evidence are examples of factors that may lead to a wrongful conviction.”

In this essay, the author uses various citations that show the justice system’s flaws in the process and criteria of its rulings. It further discusses the different instances of unfair judgments and mentions that at least 1% of all convicts serving prison time were wrongfully accused. 

The writer believes that changing the way of addressing different cases and ensuring that all legal professionals do their assigned duties will result in fair justice. You might also be interested in these essays about choice .

“Here in the 21st century, we don’t exactly have ‘Black Codes’ we have what is known as Racial Profiling. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) defines racial profiling as ‘the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race ethnicity, religion or national origin.’”

This essay investigates the involvement of race in the criminal justice system, whether they are victims or perpetrators. The author claims that some law enforcement officers mistreat and misjudge people because of their race and presents various cases as evidence of these discriminatory actions. One example is the case of an unarmed black teenager, Jordan Edwards , who was shot because former officer Roy Oliver thought his partner was in danger.

Unfortunately, law enforcement officials use their power and position in society to deny any act of racial profiling, rendering the said law useless. The author declares that while their paper may not prove racial bias in the criminal justice system, they can prove that a person’s color plays a role and can cause harm.

“I think the Ban-the-Box law is the best way of creating employment opportunities for ex-convicts without discrimination. Criminal offenses vary in the degree of the crime, making it unfair to treat all ex-convicts the same. Moreover, some felons learn from their mistakes during detention and parole, creating a better and law-abiding citizen with the ability to work faithfully.”

The essay explains how ex-convicts or current convicts are consistently discriminated against. This discrimination affects their lives even after serving their sentence, especially in their rights to vote and work. 

Regarding job hunting, the author believes the Ban-the-Box law will effectively create more employment opportunities. The law allows employers to see an ex-convict’s skills rather than just their record.  The essay concludes with a reminder that everyone is entitled to a civil right to vote, while private enterprises are free to run background checks. 

“Case management focuses on incorporating key elements that focus on improving the wellbeing of individuals that are being assessed. Mental illness within the criminal justice system is treated as a sensitive issue that requires urgent intervention in order to ensure that an inmate is able to recover.”

This essay pries into one of the most delicate areas of ruling in the justice system, which is leading mentally ill convicts. Offenders who were deemed mentally ill should be able to receive particular treatments for their health while serving time. 

The author mentions that every country must be able to provide mental health services for the inmates to prevent conflicts inside the prison. In conclusion, they suggest that reviewing and prioritizing policies related to mental illness is the best solution to the issue.

Are you interested in writing about mental illnesses? Check out our guide on how to write essays about depression.

7 Prompts for Essays About Justice

Essays About Justice: What is justice?

Justice is a vast subject, and its literal meaning is the quality of being just. This process often occurs when someone who has broken the law gets what they should, whether freedom or punishment. Research and discuss everything there is to know about justice so your readers can fully understand it. Include a brief history of its origins, types, and uses.

Several situations prove that justice is only for the rich. One of the main reasons is the expensive court fees. Research why victims settle outside the court or just let their abusers get away with crimes.

Include data that proves justice is a luxury where the only ones who can ask for equal treatment are those with resources—present situations or well-known cases to support your statements. On the other hand, you can also provide counter-arguments such as government programs that help financially-challenged individuals.

Every citizen has the right to be protected and treated fairly in court. Explain the importance of justice to a person, society, and government. Then, add actual cases of how justice is applied to encourage reform or chaos. Include relevant cases that demonstrate how justice impacts lives and legal changes, such as the case of Emmett Till .

Talk about how justice is usually depicted on screen and how it affects people’s expectations of how the justice system works. Popular television shows such as Suits and Law and Order are examples of the justice system being portrayed in the media. Research these examples and share your opinion on whether movies or television portray the justice system accurately or not.

In this essay, research how justice worldwide has changed. This can include looking at legal systems, human rights, and humanity’s ever-changing opinions. For instance, child labor was considered normal before but is viewed as an injustice today. List significant changes in justice and briefly explain why they have changed over time. You might also be interested in these essays about violence .

Essays About Justice: Justice system around the world

Countries have different ways of instilling justice within their societies. For this prompt, research and discuss the countries you think have the best and worst legal systems. Then, point out how these differences affect the country’s crime rates and quality of life for its citizens.

Examine why people tend to take justice into their hands, disobey legal rules, or give up altogether. It can be because seeking justice is an arduous process resulting in emotional and financial burdens. Often, this occurs when a person feels their government is not providing the support they need. Take a look at this social issue, and discuss it in your essay for a strong argumentative. 

If you are interested in learning more, check out our essay writing tips !

essay on law and justice

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Law and Justice

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An A-Level essay in which I attempted to discuss the meaning of justice and how the English Legal System aims to achieve it.

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Muhammad Zeeshan

essay on law and justice

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This is a third-year option for Politics students at the University of Southampton.


ilir qabrati

From the views and changes that have followed the dynamism of our society, undoubtedly, law and justice have played a crucial role as a very abstract term that has been consumed almost from the first beginnings of human society to our modern days. Beyond the events and circumstances that societies in the past have had and organized by defining and choosing the way of life, and often times the right has been personalized by a certain group of people, or by a military division that has given rights and has created justice, in certain interests and for personal and charismatic purposes it has been denied a certain part of society, and has often been deformed in scandalous ways by reflecting, on the fact that the giver of this right has often been pointed out to be the man, but this convulsion in no case has lasted long, and often this theory has remained unrealized, reflecting that right is something natural and that the individual gains at the moment of birth and enjoys it to death, t...

Amreen Khan

Anne-Marie O'Connell

Alors que le système connu sous le nom de Common Law se développait, un phénomène de fossilisation de la procédure d'accès aux tribunaux limita le recours à la justice pour les sujets du royaume ainsi que le pouvoir des juges (1258 Provisions of Oxford). Le Roi, « Fontaine de justice » et dernier recours des pétitionnaires, délégua son pouvoir de rendre la justice à son Lord Chancellor, son Secrétaire d'État et ecclésiastique à l'origine, qui remédia à ces nombreux dénis de justice en créant un système destiné à corriger les défauts de la loi sans s'y substituer : l'Equity. Système inspiré du droit canon, l'Equity juge en fonction de ce qui est moralement acceptable, et introduit en droit anglais de nouveaux droits, de nouvelles procédures et de nouveaux remèdes. La présente contribution analysera comment l'Equity, au moment où elle se constitue, peut représenter un embryon de justice réparatrice, et le Lord Chancellor un prototype lointain du défenseur des droits, et comment, d'autre part cette approche particulière du droit demeure fermement ancrée dans le système judiciaire anglais. Abstract: As the legal system known as Common Law was developing in England, access to justice via the procedural writ system was abruptly limited by the 1258 Provisions of Oxford, which denied access to those litigants who could not fit in the existing claim forms and prevented judges from creating new ones. The King, " Fountain of Justice " and last resort for the petitioners, delegated his residual prerogative to render justice to his Lord Chancellor, both secretary and confessor. The latter remedied to this denial of justice by setting up a system of court designed to mitigate and correct the rigours of the law without becoming a substitute for it. This system, inspired by canon law and called Equity, decides cases according to what is morally right, and introduces new rights, new procedures and new remedies into English law.

in Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos (Ed), The Routledge Handbook of Law & Theory, London: Routledge, 2018

Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos

This is an experimental text with three voices. The first one is an autoethnographic study of being called on jury service at the Old Bailey, London. The second is a theoretical voice, analysing the theory of the lawscape as I have developed it in my writings, in combination with issues about atmospherics, enclosures, control of bodies and spaces, and temporalities of law. The third voice operates as commentary on the other two and the whole chapter as such, offering an antilogos to the traditional understanding of essay writing, especially for law students but also for academics. This last voice suggests the disruption of the flow of textuality in order for materiality to flood in.

Monica Lopez Lerma , Julen Etxabe

ARTICLES: Justice in Tension: An Expression of Law and the Legal Mind James Boyd White Configuring Justice Jeanne Gaakeer To Avenge, to Forgive or to Judge? Literary Variations François Ost Speaking of the Imperfect: Law, Language and Justice Marianne Constable Justice and the Colonial Collision: Reflections on Stories of Intercultural Encounter in Law, Literature, Sculpture and Film Rebecca Johnson The Heart of Law M. Paola Mittica Having Gods, Being Greek and Getting Better: On Equity and Integrity Concerning Property an Other Posited Laws Gary Watt The Ethics of Testimony: Trauma, Body and Justice in Sarah Kofman's Autobiography Ari Hirvonen

Claris Kariuki

Shivam Goel

This Research Paper is an attempt to answer the following questions of jurisprudence in a manner- thoughtful and lucid. What is Justice? What are the various forms of justice? What is the difference between 'Corrective Justice' and 'Distributive Justice'? How is "law in accordance with justice" different from "justice in accordance with law"? What is the difference between 'A Law' and 'The Law'? How is 'Conventional Morality' different from 'Critical Morality'? Is 'law' in breach of 'morals' - an unjust law? How are 'Natural Rights', 'Civil Rights' and 'Legal Rights' inter-connected? What is the difference between 'Natural Justice' and 'Legal Justice'?


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Law and Justice Essay

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Alexandra Popovici

                        Law And Justice

Justice is hard to define, as it means differently to different people. Generally, it means fairness and equality. The dictionary definition would be the upholding of rights and the punishments of wrongs, by law.

There are different doctrines relating to justice. Rules of Natural Justice are meant to ensure that trials are fair and that both parties must have the opportunity to put their case forward and to have both sides of the story, an example of this is seen, in R v Bingham where defendant was convicted after a chair of magistrates said that he always believed a police officer in cases where evidence consisted of a policeman’s word against defendant’s.

Aristotle taught that fairness is the basis of justice that we find in two forms. Distributive Justice regarding the allocation of assets where the aim of justice is to achieve proportion. Corrective Justice is concerned with restoring a balance which has been disturbed whether by a voluntary or involuntary act. This is concerned with equality; the law looks only to the character of the injury and treats the parties as equal. It doesn’t make a difference if a good man defrauded a bad man or the other way round.

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Economic theories like Marx, Rawls and Nozick calculate the effect of a law of policy in terms of the law the greatest happiness of a greatest number.

Rawls said that the only way to achieve true justice is if we create an ‘original position’. His point being that the people who make the laws have their own agenda, so you can’t achieve true justice.

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Robert Nozick thought that if you get wealthy legally and fairly then it should be yours to keep. However, those who do not have any wealth shouldn’t be helped. Its functions should be limited to the basic needs such as protecting the individual against force, theft and fraud. The problem with this theory is that some can not afford training for a good job.

Marx believed that the law is made to protect the middle class and their property from the working class. He thought everyone should be equal.

Utilitarian’s ( Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill) is based on a principle of utility, approving every action that increases human happiness and this approving every action that diminishes it. A law is just if it results in a not gain in happiness even at the expense of minorities.

There are two types of justice. Formal or Procedural Justice which concerns the mechanism by which decisions are made.Concrete or Substantive Justice which is more concerned with the end result.

Strict applications of precedent may lead to an unjust result. FORD (follow, overrule, reverse and distinguish) insures that each case is treated on its own fact. Eg Meritt v Meritt where the court approved the precedent in Balfour v Balfour.

Equity softens the common law, but it is rarely found to have application in the Criminal Law. In High Trees Lord Denning would not allow a claimant to go back on his promise to reduce the tenant;s rent during the war, and he looked at a fair outcome (substantive justice) rather than just following the letter of the law. In Criminal Law judges use the work ‘policy’ not equity and by appealing to policy can do in the criminal law where the rules would dictate that another course should be followed this is seen in R v Wacker.

There are many miscarriages of justice which shows us that justice is hard to achieve and it is important that errors and miscarriages can be put right. For example Sally Clark whose babies died was finally acquitted of their murder as medical evidence had not been discovered and inappropriate conclusions had been drawn.

Many of the reasons for the miscarriages of justice pre-date the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE). It widely recognised that ( PACE) provides safe guards during police questioning by strict Codes of Practice that is published in 38 languages.

Criminal Cases Review Commission was set up in 1995. When miscarriages like Birmingham Six and Guilford Four had raised doubts about the appeal system.

In my opinion, laws and justice will be up to debate and so many different views will clash with the law held. Many people will accept that justice should be the aim of any legal system. Nevertheless, some legal systems exist without any apparent notion of justice. One only has to think of the totalitarian regime in Iraq and Russia under Stalin where law was simply a means of repression not justice.

Law and Justice Essay

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Difference Between Law and Justice

• Categorized under Legal | Difference Between Law and Justice

The concepts of law and justice are often confused and misinterpreted by many. While the two are strictly connected, they are not the same thing. Justice is a broad concept that is based on equality of rights, fairness and morality. Conversely, law is a body of regulations and standards set up by governments and international bodies and is (or should be) based on the idea of justice. Laws are written norms that regulate the actions of the citizens and of the government itself in all aspects, whereas justice is a principle that may or may not be universally recognized .

Difference Between Law and Justice

What is Law?

Laws are rules and guidelines established and enforced by the government and its entities . They vary from country to country and there is a body of international laws that applied to all states that decide to ratify certain treaties or conventions. National laws are principles and norms that regulate the behavior of all citizens and of all individuals under the government’s jurisdiction. Laws are created by the government thorough a long and complex process, and once established they are implemented by governmental entities and interpreted by lawyers and judges. Laws establish what citizens, business, and governmental agencies can or cannot do. Although there is a set of written legislations, the judiciary system has the power to interpret them and to enforce them in all different situations. Laws vary from one country to another (or even from one state to another in the United States): that is why lawyers can only operate in the country where they passed the national exam.

What is Justice?

Justice is a broad and somehow abstract concept based on equality of rights, fairness, kindness, dignity, moral and ethics. In a just world, we would not have:

  • Discrimination ;
  • Slavery; and
  • Injustices in general.

Therefore, all laws should be based on the idea of justice and all governments should enforce national laws in a just and equal way. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and laws are often broken, non-respected and/or enforced in biased and partial ways. Furthermore, justice supersedes national legislation and applies to all individuals without discriminations or limitations .

Similarities between Law and Justice    

The concepts of law and justice are fairly similar as most laws are thought to be just and fair. Some of the main similarities between the two include:

  • Both concepts regulate human behavior and aim at creating a more just and equal environment;
  • Law should be based on the idea of justice and should be implemented and interpreted in a just manner – without discriminations; and
  • Both are based on the ideas of morality, equality, order and fairness .

Difference between Law and Justice

Although the two concepts are strictly linked, there are key differences that cannot be overlooked:

1. The term law refers to an existing and concrete set of written regulations established by the government in order to regulate and control the actions of the citizens . Conversely, justice is not a universally recognised concept and is subject to interpretations. Justice is often depicted a woman wearing a blindfold– representing equality and fairness, and applying laws and regulations to all individuals without discrimination. Yet, there is no common understanding of justice and there is no unique book or text to refer to; and

2. Laws can vary from country to country and the process with which they are created can change as well. For instance, in democratic countries, laws are adopted following a long debate and an even longer process of checks and balances; conversely, in authoritarian countries, laws are decided and established by the ruling party (or by the ruling person) without seeking the support of the majority. Conversely, the idea of justice is more or less consistent across all countries: moral values and ethics tend to supersede borders and geographic divisions.

Law vs Justice

Building on the differences outlined in the previous section, we can identify few other aspects that differentiate law from justice.

Difference between Law and Justice: Comparison Table

Summary of law and justice.

The terms “law” and “justice” refer to two similar yet different concepts. The ideas of law and justice often go hand-in-hand but refer to two different ideas. Law is a system of regulations, standards, principles and norms created by a country’s government in order to regulate the life and the actions of the citizens. Laws are found in written codes and are enforced by the government and its bodies, including security forces, police, judiciary, etc. Conversely, justice is a more abstract concept based on the idea of equality of rights, and fairness. All laws should be based on the idea of justice and should be implemented and enforced in a just way without discrimination of sex, gender, age, color, race, religion , language or any other status.

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Cite APA 7 Squadrin, G. (2019, April 2). Difference Between Law and Justice. Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects. http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/legal-miscellaneous/difference-between-law-and-justice/. MLA 8 Squadrin, Giulia. "Difference Between Law and Justice." Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects, 2 April, 2019, http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/legal-miscellaneous/difference-between-law-and-justice/.

Wow! this is interesting. I have learnt something. I believe, I am not from where I was.

Everday we learn new things

I’m challenged of how are able to talk about but lack a clearer sense of justice. It’s like we know her but can’t seem to know her name!

This information helps me to understand what is justice now

This gave me a clear understanding of the law and justice…how they differ and how they are similar.

This helped me to differentiate justice and law

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Evidence-Based Transitional Justice: Incorporating Public Opinion into the Field, with New Data from Iraq and Ukraine

abstract . The field of “transitional justice” refers to a range of processes and mechanisms for accountability, truth-seeking, and reconciliation that governments and communities pursue in the aftermath of major societal traumas, including civil war, mass atrocities, and authoritarianism. This relatively new field emerged in the 1980s as scholars, practitioners, and policymakers looked for guidance to support post-authoritarian and post-communist transitions to democracy in Eastern Europe and Latin America. Since then, the field has grown rapidly—so rapidly that it is outpacing its capacity to learn from past mistakes. Recent methodological advances in the study of public attitudes about transitional justice through quantitative surveys and qualitative interview methods provide unprecedented insights into how different mechanisms—including domestic and international prosecutions, truth commissions, amnesty laws, and compensation—are perceived by their intended beneficiaries. The results have been troubling. Numerous studies in diverse contexts found that some of the most well-known transitional justice mechanisms, including those employed in South Africa, Rwanda, and Cambodia, failed to achieve their objectives of peacebuilding and reconciliation. In some cases, these policies had harmful consequences for their intended beneficiaries, including retraumatization and perceived “justice gaps” between victims’ preferred remedies and their actual outcomes.

There is an urgent need for the field of transitional justice to learn from this growing body of empirical research to develop evidence-based policies and programs that achieve their intended objectives. This Feature critically reviews the intellectual development of the field, consolidating empirical findings of relevant studies across disciplines—law, political science, sociology, economics, public health, psychology, and anthropology—and identifying open debates and questions for future research. We focus on research about public attitudes toward transitional justice in the communities directly impacted by conflict. In addition to reviewing previous research, we present new data from original public opinion surveys in Iraq and Ukraine relevant to ongoing transitional justice efforts in those countries. We use this evidence to identify lessons learned, including mistakes, in the design and implementation of previous transitional justice processes. We conclude by discussing the normative and prescriptive implications of our findings for efforts to improve future transitional justice laws and policies.

authors. Mara Redlich Revkin is Associate Professor of Law and Political Science, Duke University. Ala Alrababah is Assistant Professor, Department of Social and Political Sciences, Bocconi University. Rachel Myrick is Douglas and Ellen Lowey Assistant Professor of Political Science, Duke University. We thank Emilie Aguirre, Stuart Benjamin, Joseph Blocher, Janka Deli, Michael Frakes , Brandon Garrett, Oona Hathaway, Lisa Kern Griffin, Laurence Helfer, Kristen Kao, Egor Lazarev , Nia Johnson, Mark Fathi Massoud , Noah Marks, Darrell Miller, Jonathan Petkun , Jedediah Purdy, Arti Rai, Judith Resnik, Barak Richman, Richard Schmalbeck , Jonathan Seymour, David Simon, Jeffrey Sonis , Jonathan Wyrtzen , Elisabeth Jean Wood, and participants in the 2023 Conference on Empirical Legal Studies and the Yale MacMillan Political Violence and its Legacies Workshop for constructive comments on earlier drafts; Julie Wooldridge for guidance on the literature-review methodology and Olivia Callan (Duke Law ’25), Robert Cerise (Duke Law ’25), Yechan Choi (Duke Law ’25), Felicia Caten -Raines (Harvard Law ’25), and Olivia Wang (Duke Law ’24) for excellent research assistance; and Alaa Hachem , Christopher D’Urso , Dena Shata , Jordan Kei-Rahn, Sara Méndez, Ryan Lessing, and all the other editors of the Yale Law Journal for excellent suggestions and editorial support.


Transitional justice seeks to bring about social and political change following major episodes of conflict, unrest, or human-rights violations. There are a wide range of transitional justice mechanisms including criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations for victims, amnesties and pardons, and other community-based justice mechanisms. The term “transitional justice” originated in the 1980s, prompted by a wave of democratic transitions in Eastern Europe and Latin America. For its first twenty years, the field was driven largely by theories and assumptions that had not been empirically verified. There was little evidence to guide the design of the first major transitional justice mechanisms, like the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) established in 1993, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) established in 1994, and South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) established in 1996. Instead, these mechanisms, established in close succession, were described as “experiments,” 1 reflecting uncertainty about their prospects for success.

After an initial period of enthusiasm and optimism in the 1990s, 2 the field of transitional justice came under scrutiny. Critics identified several systemic problems, including a lack of clarity around key concepts, underdeveloped theories of change, ideological biases reflecting the field’s intellectual domination by scholars and institutions in the United States and Europe, selective support for accountability, a tendency to impose top-down interventions without adequate knowledge of local context, and concerns about the emergence of a “transitional-justice industry” fueled by Western donor countries and private firms whose interests did not always align with the purported beneficiaries of their work. 3

A series of review articles starting in 2008 warned that the field was based on little evidence despite the high-stakes—arguably “life or death” 4 —nature of the transitional justice programs and policies that were implemented for vulnerable populations in some of the most impoverished and war-torn countries in the world. 5 These scholars agreed on the need for more empirical research. In response, researchers from several fields, including law, anthropology, sociology, political science, psychology, and public health, used diverse methodological approaches, both qualitative and quantitative, to evaluate how local populations perceived programs and policies “on the ground.”

This new wave of microlevel evidence was discouraging. Many researchers found that transitional justice policies failed to achieve their objectives or—even worse—had unintended harmful consequences. In South Africa, surveys and interviews with victims of apartheid found that many felt betrayed by an unconditional amnesty process that was seen as being too quick to forgive perpetrators without requiring apologies or adequate reparations. 6 In Cambodia, the joint United Nations-Cambodian tribunal tasked with prosecuting war crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge convicted only three people after spending nearly $300 million over eleven years. 7 The tribunal was further plagued by allegations of corruption. 8 A survey of Cambodians found that fifty-three percent would prefer to “spend money on something other than the [tribunal]” and seventy-six percent felt it was “more important to focus on problems Cambodians face in their daily lives than to address crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime.” 9 Qualitative-interview studies similarly found that many Cambodians viewed the tribunal as out of touch with ordinary people, 10 too slow, 11 and a disappointment. 12

The late 1990s and 2000s witnessed the creation of many other international and hybrid judicial bodies. These included a permanent international atrocities court—the International Criminal Court (ICC)—and ad hoc mechanisms such as the ICTY and ICTR. The perceived failures of many of these mechanisms prompted criticism of “top-down,” state-led justice processes. 13 Beginning in the 2000s, a “local turn” in transitional justice fueled an increase in international assistance for customary, traditional, community-based, and other “bottom-up” approaches. 14 These included Rwanda’s gacaca courts, which were based on precolonial, customary legal traditions, and the Ugandan Acholi people’s traditional cleansing rituals. 15 However, surveys and interviews soon revealed serious concerns with these bottom-up approaches as well. In Rwanda, studies found that the gacaca courts—initially praised by the international community as a promising experiment in community-led justice—were viewed by many Rwandans as a tool for strengthening the government’s authoritarian rule. 16 The courts exposed and likely deepened distrust between ethnic groups 17 and resulted in retraumatization and stigmatization of victims, particularly female victims of sexual violence who were required to testify publicly. 18

In other contexts, including Iraq and Spain, flawed or insufficient transitional justice processes contributed to disillusionment with weak democracies and resulted in “authoritarian nostalgia” for former dictatorships that are remembered, or at least imagined, to have provided more economic and political stability. 19 Despite these troubling findings, governments and major international organizations continue to implement many of the same transitional justice programs and policies without incorporating lessons that emerged from surveys, interviews, and other testimony from the intended beneficiaries of these interventions. 20

This Feature argues that there is an urgent need for the field of transitional justice to learn from recent methodological advances in the study of public attitudes to develop more evidence-based policies and programs. Research considering public attitudes that is conducted both ethically and rigorously can better achieve transitional justice’s intended objectives, reduce the likelihood of unintended harmful consequences, and improve its perceived legitimacy. In this Feature, we make two primary contributions. First, we conduct a systematic literature review of empirical studies on transitional justice to highlight knowledge gaps and potential biases. 21 Systematic literature reviews like ours, as well as “meta-analytic” reviews that reanalyze and summarize data from previous studies, 22 are powerful tools that enable scholars to comprehensively map patterns in fields of research using transparent search parameters and coding procedures. These methods are valuable both for synthesizing and visualizing patterns in previous scholarship and discouraging sweeping claims about “the literature” that are often incomplete and biased. 23 Second, we present evidence from our original studies on public attitudes toward transitional justice in Ukraine and Iraq, two cases that demonstrate the importance of understanding the experiences and preferences of the affected populations. These studies speak to both the opportunities and limitations of public opinion research about transitional justice.

Part I defines transitional justice and briefly summarizes the intellectual development of the field. It describes the most common types of transitional justice mechanisms: criminal prosecutions, reparations and compensation, truth and reconciliation commissions, amnesties and pardons, formal apologies, vetting, and other customary or community-based justice mechanisms.

Part II provides an overview of the empirical turn in transitional justice scholarship, emphasizing trends in public opinion research. In this Part, we conduct a systematic literature review of 329 studies of attitudes toward transitional justice among conflict-affected populations. We focus on attitudinal studies rather than other types of empirical studies (e.g., cross-national datasets and event studies based on archives or local news reports) because the former provide direct evidence of the real-world effects of transitional justice processes on their intended beneficiaries. Our analysis identifies several patterns that are problematic for knowledge production and equity. For one, the field continues to be dominated by scholars and institutions from the United States and Western Europe, while scholars from countries where transitional justice programs tend to be implemented are underrepresented. The literature also focuses on a small number of unique cases like South Africa and Northern Ireland, while cases in the Middle East and Asia are understudied. We also find that criminal prosecutions receive more attention than victim-centered and restorative mechanisms such as compensation, apologies, and dialogues, which may reflect the focus of U.S. and international criminal-law mechanisms on the punishment of perpetrators rather than remedies for victims.

In Part III, based on our review of the existing literature, we identify four recurring debates common to many empirical studies of transitional justice: 1) Who should be responsible for administering justice? 2) What are the limits of reconciliation and forgiveness? 3) How do experiences during conflict, like exposure to violence, affect attitudes towards transitional justice mechanisms? And 4) how does shared identity (e.g., religion, ethnicity, tribe) shape individuals’ willingness to forgive or demands for accountability? The answers to these questions vary widely between studies conducted in different countries and even between studies conducted across different regions or populations within the same country.

Part IV draws on findings from two original public opinion surveys in Ukraine in 2017 24 and in Iraq between 2018 and 2021 25 to further explore the key debates identified in Part III. Important differences between these two cases—including in the relationship between personal experiences with wartime harm and attitudes toward peace and justice, as well as differing levels of trust in domestic, international, or customary legal institutions—illustrate the need for highly contextualized legal and policy responses. We discuss how our research may inform ongoing transitional justice efforts in Iraq and Ukraine.

Part V concludes with the normative and prescriptive implications of our findings. We highlight the need for more empirical research to ensure that transitional justice policies and programs are making progress toward their intended objectives and not causing unintended harm. We also call for more support for scholars and research institutions in countries affected by transitional justice processes to address their extreme underrepresentation in the literature as revealed by our meta-analysis. We further describe approaches to incorporate attitudinal data into the design of transitional justice processes in ways that acknowledge the voice and agency of conflict-affected populations, rather than treating them as powerless victims. The ultimate goal of this Feature is to promote evidence-based transitional justice policies and programs that are tailored to local contexts and attentive to the concerns of affected populations and thus more likely to be perceived as legitimate and effective.

Announcing the Editors of Volume 134

Announcing the first-year editors of volume 133, announcing the seventh annual student essay competition.

See, e.g. , William A. Schabas, The UN International Criminal Tribunals: The Former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone 8 (2006) (describing the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) as the “first experiment with international justice”); International Criminal Justice Figures Gather at TCD , Trinity Coll. Dublin (Dec. 20, 2006), https://www.tcd.ie/news_events/articles/international-criminal-justice-figures-gather-at-tcd [https://perma.cc/EA93-453A] (describing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as “the first experiment of international justice based in Africa”); Eugene Nicholas Isaac, A Critical-Theoretic Study of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission: With Reference to the Work of Jürgen Habermas 288 (Apr. 2006) (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Leeds) (on file with the White Rose Libraries, Universities of Leeds, Sheffield & York) (describing South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as “an experiment that was based on unstable and non-persuasive foundations”).

Leslie Vinjamuri & Jack Snyder, Law and Politics in Transitional Justice , 18 Ann. Rev. Pol. Sci . 303, 315 (2015) (suggesting that the 1990s were “the heyday of optimism among advocates of creating transitional justice institutions”).

See, e.g. , Duncan McCargo, Transitional Justice and Its Discontents , 26 J. Democracy 5, 5-6 (2015) (observing that the field “has become a vast global industry that employs tens of thousands of people”); Kieran McEvoy, Ron Dudai & Cheryl Lawther , Criminology and Transitional Justice , in The Oxford Handbook of Criminology 391, 391 (Alison Liebling, Shadd Maruna & Lesley McAra eds., 2017) (describing the field as having a kind of “swagger” that is “underpinned by the enormous expenditure of resources involved”).

U.N. Assistant Secretary General and Assistant Administrator of the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) Asako Okai , wrote: “Public demand for accountability is at an all-time high, as the daily decisions that states make have near immediate life or death consequences, particularly for people from marginalized communities.” Lorena Mellado , Chelsea Shelton, Aparna Basnyat , Krishna Velupillai, Chris Mahoney & Djordje Djordjevi ć , From Justice for the Past to Peace and Inclusion for the Future: A Development Approach to Transitional Justice , United Nations Dev. Programme 5 (Nov. 2020), https://undp.org/sites/g/files/zskgke326/files ‌ /publications/UNDP-From-Justice-for-the-Past-to-Peace-and-Inclusion.pdf [https:// ‌ perma.cc/NX8P-7C6L].

See, e.g. , Oskar N.T. Thoms , James Ron & Roland Paris, The Effects of Transitional Justice Mechanisms: Summary of Empirical Research Findings and Implications for Analysts and Practitioners 4 (Apr. 2008) (unpublished manuscript) (on file with the University of Ottawa Centre for International Policy Studies) (“There is little evidence that [transitional justice (TJ)] produces either beneficial or harmful effects.”).

See, e.g. , David Backer, Watching a Bargain Unravel? A Panel Study of Victims’ Attitudes About Transitional Justice in Cape Town, South Africa , 4 Int’l J. Transitional Just. 443, 443-45 (2010) (describing a longitudinal survey of 153 victims of apartheid conducted at two points in time, 2002-2003 and 2008, which found a decline in support for the TRC over time attributed to “a marked decline in approval of amnesty and decreased acceptance of its necessity, plus an increased desire for various forms of accountability”); Augustine S.J. Park & Madalena Santos, The Counter-Reparative Impacts of South Africa’s Reparations Gap: Victims as Reparations ‘Experts’ and the Role of Victims’ Organizations , 49 J.L. & Soc’y 635, 646 (2022) (“[M]any victims felt betrayed by the TRC, as perpetrators received immediate amnesties while victims were forced to wait for reparations [that were] well below what they felt they were promised.”).

Seth Mydans , 11 Years, $300 Million and 3 Convictions. Was the Khmer Rouge Tribunal Worth It? , N.Y. Times (Apr. 10, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/10/world/asia/cambodia-khmer-rouge-united-nations-tribunal.html [https://perma.cc/U58P-4YLN].

Seth Mydans , Corruption Allegations Affect Khmer Rouge Trials , N.Y. Times (Apr. 9, 2009), https://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/10/world/asia/10cambo.html [https://perma.cc/NEV3 ‌ -CHBD].

Phuong Pham, Patrick Vinck , Mychelle Balthazard , Sokhom Hean & Eric Stover, So We Will Never Forget: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes About Social Reconstruction and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia , Hum. Rts . Ctr., U.C. Berkeley Sch. of L. 35 (Jan. 2009), https://www.law.berkeley.edu/files/IHRLC/So_We_Will_Never_Forget.PDF [https://perma.cc/923V-4Q62]. The survey further revealed that one-third of respondents did not believe the hybrid court was neutral. Id. at 3-4.

Tara Urs , Imagining Locally-Motivated Accountability for Mass Atrocities: Voices from Cambodia , 4 Sur-Int’l J. Hum. Rts . 61, 77-78 (2007) (finding that approximately twenty percent of 117 Cambodian interviewees were unwilling to engage with the court and that many of these viewed it as “above” ordinary people).

Wendy Lambourne, Justice After Genocide: Impunity and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia , 8 Genocide Stud. & Prevention: Int’l J. 29, 32 (2014) (quoting a female survivor of the Khmer Rouge, who asked, “[W] hy they don’t make the hearings quickly, why do they keep delaying?”).

Heather Ryan & Laura McGrew, Performance and Perception: The Impact of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia , Open Soc’y Just. Initiative 33 (2016), https://www.justiceinitiative.org/uploads/106d6a5a-c109-4952-a4e8-7097f8e0b452/performance-perception-eccc-20160211.pdf [https://perma.cc/PF28-83D3] (quoting a Cambodian lawyer as saying, “I am disappointed in the court . . . because so few who committed crimes were prosecuted”).

Adam Kochanski, The “Local Turn” in Transitional Justice: Curb the Enthusiasm , 22 Int’l Stud. Rev. 26, 29 (2020) (summarizing criticisms of “state-led . . . TJ interventions” and noting that “critics have . . . raised concerns about the wisdom of imposing TJ in a top-down direction in mostly non-Western societies”).

See, e.g. , id. at 29-30 (citing criticisms including the purported mismatch between trials and truth commissions and local cultures and their “failure to secure local agency and participation in state-level [transitional justice] efforts”); Rosalind Shaw & Lars Waldorf, Introduction: Localizing Transitional Justice , in Localizing Transitional Justice: Interventions and Priorities After Mass Violence 3, 4 (Rosalind Shaw & Lars Waldorf eds., 2010) (“[T] ransitional justice has itself undergone a shift toward the local.”).

Kochanski, supra note 13, at 35.

See, e.g. , Anuradha Chakravarty, Investing in Authoritarian Rule: Punishment and Patronage in Rwanda’s Gacaca Courts for Genocide Crimes 2-3, 24 (2016) (arguing that the gacaca courts “relied heavily on forms of social complicity” and facilitated “authoritarian regime consolidation”).

Max Rettig, Gacaca: Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation in Postconflict Rwanda? , 51 Afr. Stud. Rev . 25, 29 (2008) (“Gacaca is fueling—or at least exposing—conflict, resentment, and ethnic disunity.”).

See Karen Brounéus , Truth-Telling as Talking Cure? Insecurity and Retraumatization in the Rwandan Gacaca Courts , 39 Sec. Dialogue 55, 69 (2008) (describing the retraumatization that women went through when “witnessing” in front of the gacaca about their sexual assault); Karen Brounéus , The Trauma of Truth Telling: Effects of Witnessing in the Rwandan Gacaca Courts on Psychological Health , 54 J. Conflict Resol . 408, 408 (2010) (“[G] acaca witnesses suffer from higher levels of depression and PTSD than do nonwitnesses   . . . . ”).

See, e.g. , Marsin Alshamary , The Iraq Invasion at Twenty: Iraq’s Struggle for Democracy , 34 J. Democracy 150, 157 (2023) (“Some Iraqi youth have expressed authoritarian nostalgia, despite never having lived under Baathism.”); Joan Barceló, The Emotional Underpinnings of Attitudes Toward Transitional Justice , 66 Pol. Stud . 480, 497 (2018) (finding a marginally significant correlation between nostalgia for the Franco regime in Spain and lower levels of support for transitional justice).

As of 2011, well over a billion dollars had been spent on transitional justice programs around the world. Harvey M. Weinstein, Editorial Note: The Myth of Closure, the Illusion of Reconciliation: Final Thoughts on Five Years as Co-Editor-in-Chief , 5 Int’l J. Transitional Just . 1, 1 (2011).

To our knowledge, the most recent comprehensive review of empirical studies on transitional justice was conducted in 2012. See Anna Macdonald, From the Ground Up: What Does the Evidence Tell Us About Local Experiences of Transitional Justice? , 1 Transitional Just. Rev. 72, 72 (2015).

See Lindsay S. Uman , Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses , 20 J. Can. Acad. Child & Adolescent Psych. 57, 57 (2011).

See Charles O. Cummings, Jessica Eisenbarth & David D.R. Krucik , The Value of N-of-1 Data in Zoological Medicine: A Methodological Review , 54 J. Zoo & Wildlife Med. 417, 417 (2023) (noting advantages of systematic literature reviews over narrower reviews, including “minimizing omission of relevant articles, thereby reducing the potential for mischaracterization of the literature”).

See Ala’ Alrababa’h , Rachel Myrick & Isaac Webb, Do Donor Motives Matter? Investigating Perceptions of Foreign Aid in the Conflict in Donbas , 64 Int’l Stud. Q. 748, 752-55 (2020) (discussing a related study by Alrababa’h and Myrick based on the same survey).

Parts of these data have been previously published in Kristen Kao & Mara R. Revkin , Retribution or Reconciliation? Post ‐ Conflict Attitudes Toward Enemy Collaborators , 67 Am. J. Pol. Sci. 358, 366-71 (2023); Reintegration in Iraq: A Perception Survey to Assess Community Readiness for Return and Reintegration of Families with Perceived ISIL Affiliation in Pilot Areas , U.N. Dev. Programme Iraq 7-13 (Aug. 2021), https://www.undp.org/sites/g/files/zskgke326/files ‌ /migration/iq/UNDP_IQ_Perception_Survey.pdf [https://perma.cc/K3D3-2CEF]; and Reintegration Perception Survey Report: Four Areas: Al- Qa’im and Habaniya in Anbar , Tuz Khurmato in Salah al-Din, and Muhalabiya in Ninewa , U.N. Dev. Programme Iraq 5-13 (Nov. 2022 https://www.undp.org/sites/g/files/zskgke326/files/2023-03/UNDP_IQ_Reintegration_Perceptions_Survey_Report.pdf [https://perma.cc/2UZ7-ZJFW] [ hereinafter Perception Surveys Report ].

Yale Daily News

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Yale professor co-authors upcoming book on fighting back against mass incarceration

Three former public defenders, including Yale Law Professor James Forman, are publishing a book of essays on ways to fight for criminal justice reform.

Staff Reporter

essay on law and justice

Alexander Lejas, Contributing Photographer

In 2017, Yale Law professor James Forman Jr. published his first book, “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America.” The book won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction. 

For the next three years, Forman traveled the country, giving talks at public libraries, bookstores, community organizations, universities and more. Across his wide range of audiences, Forman invariably received the same question: “What can we, your readers, your listeners, members of the American public, do to reform the criminal justice system?” 

That question became the inspiration for his next book, “Dismantling Mass Incarceration: A Handbook for Change,” coauthored with fellow former public defenders and mass incarceration specialists Maria Hawilo and Premia Dharia. 

“The book I wanted to write was the book I wanted to be able to give to audience members when they asked that question. You want to know what you can do? Here’s the book that you’re going to need to answer that,” Forman told the News. “I wanted to write about what regular people who are appalled by the state of our criminal justice system, can actually do about it.”

The book, set to be published this summer, is an anthology of essays focused on that very question — how to work to change the ingrained injustices of our criminal justice system. 

Coauthor Maria Hawilo, a professor at Loyola Chicago Law School, was similarly inspired by questions about how to get involved in working to reform the criminal justice system. Only in her case, the questions came from her students. 

“ I’ve been teaching a seminar on mass incarceration for several years now, and many of my students have pushed me to talk, not just about the existence and the history of this massive system, but the possible solutions, the possible ways to work to change it,” Hawilo said. “Lots of people have written really fantastic books on the causes and the consequences, but there’s much less out there on the solutions.”

Like Forman, Hawilo wanted to write a book she could give to the people asking her those questions.

“Dismantling Mass Incarceration” is divided into five sections: police, public defenders, courts and judges, prison and life after prison, tracing a trajectory through the criminal justice system. Each section is preceded by an essay written jointly by Forman, Hawilo and Dharia.

The sections are not limited to one argument, framework or point of view, but rather seek to give windows into conversations and showcase the diverse range of thinking toward achieving solutions.

“The book contains a lot of disagreement,” Forman said. “Early on, we decided that although we were going to exercise some editorial function, deciding what goes in and what doesn’t, we were not going to have as an editorial status that we all have to agree with what an essay says for it to go into the book — in fact, we can all disagree with a particular essay, and it should still go in.”

Hawilo explained that she sees the inclusion of varying opinions as a crucial part of the work the book is trying to do. “I tend to think that public defenders should get more resources … that doesn’t completely match up with the abolitionist perspective, in that we’re throwing money into the system, and that’s part of the necessary discussion we need to be having, that I hope this book will be part of,” she added.

For Premal Dharia, executive director of the Institute to End Mass Incarceration at Harvard Law School and the book’s third author, inspiration to work on the project came from a sense of responsibility that grew out of her 15 years as a public defender. “Lawyers have played a role in creating and sustaining mass incarceration and we thus have, in my view, an obligation to work toward its end,” she told the News.

The book comes in the midst of an outpouring of writing and activism on the subject of mass incarceration and criminal justice reform. Both Forman and Hawilo noted how much recent, incredible literature exists, expressing a desire to add to the dialogue a work that moves beyond the historical, into the present, helping guide readers toward and through working for change today. 

“A book like this is not the first book you should read about the criminal justice system,” Forman said. “In my mind, this is a book to read after you have read some of that more historical work — maybe you’ve read ‘The New Jim Crow,’ or ‘Between the World and Me,’ or ‘Just Merc y ’ or Elizabeth Hinton’s works — you’ve read books that help give you some of the historical perspective and urgency, and now you want to learn more about how to respond. That’s where we come in.” 

Forman’s colleague, Yale Law School professor Miriam Gohara, said she is excited to read the book because of that focus on potential change, echoing the hopes of Forman and Hawilo in distinguishing their work from much of current scholarship. She added that she views Forman as exceptional in finding innovative solutions to existing problems, citing his work the charter school he founded in Washington, D.C., as well as his last book. 

“Over the past decade, people have written plenty about the problem and what led to it, so now is a good time to see what is working to get people out of prison, change sentencing laws, reduce prosecutions and other innovative practices that people should learn more about,” said Gohara. 

Reflecting on the amount of scholarship in the area and the place of their new work within it, Dharia discussed her hope that the book will help synthesize the varied ways in which people around the country are fighting to change the system.

“There are so many incredible efforts underway to confront that system,” said Dharia. “I’m hopeful this handbook offers pathways for further intervention by people already doing the work as well as new openings for those who want to.” 

Forman expressed a similar hope of communicating to readers the many forms fighting for change can take, adding that there are hundreds of ways ordinary people working in the community can do something to make the criminal justice system, in his words, “smaller, more rational, less harmful and more effective.” 

“I hope people who read the book come away understanding that the ideas are out there,” he said. “Every single one of the many things we talk about in the book is being done somewhere across the country — the ideas exist and the work is possible. So really, it’s just a question of getting to work.”

“Dismantling Mass Incarceration: A Handbook for Change” will be available beginning July 9, 2024.

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Law and Justice Essay: Understanding Key Concepts and Principles

The fascinating world of law and justice.

As law justice advocate, always captivated by relationship law society. Ways laws formed, enforced, interpreted profound impact justice achieved maintained communities. In this essay, I will delve into the complexities of this topic, exploring various aspects of law and justice from a critical perspective.

The Role of Law in Achieving Justice

Law foundation just society. It provides a framework for resolving disputes, upholding rights, and ensuring accountability. The effectiveness law achieving justice often contingent variety factors, accessibility, fairness.

Case Study: The Impact of Legal Aid on Access to Justice

A study by National Center Access Justice revealed individuals receive legal aid likely achieve outcomes cases compared afford legal representation. This underscores the critical role of access to legal resources in ensuring justice for all members of society.

The Interplay of Law and Social Justice Movements

Social justice movements often intersect with the legal system, prompting shifts in legislation and legal precedents. Movements advocate rights marginalized seek address inequalities legal advocacy reform.

Promoting Justice Through Legal Education and Advocacy

Education advocacy powerful promoting justice communities. Raising legal rights responsibilities, empower navigate legal system advocate positive change.

Law justice linked, shaping fabric society lives individuals within it. By critically examining the intersections of law and justice, we can work towards a more equitable and just world for all.

Frequently Asked Legal Questions About Law and Justice Essay

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