America has a Justice Department. It does not have a justice system. America has a legal system. The difference being, justice is an equitable application of reward and punishment to all living under its domain. A legal system is the practice of multiple judges deciding independently how to apply laws written by the changing whims of legislators and to whom the law shall apply.
Justice does not sway with the wind, it cannot be changed by a majority vote, nor is not measured in degrees. Justice is a plumb line suspended from the hand of God that falls across the hearts and minds of every man. All that lies outside, whether excess or neglect violates the spirit of justice. The guilty, then, are guilty, the innocent are innocent, and there is nothing in between. This is right and fair. This is justice. It sounds hard and it is to all who transgress its code.
The upside is that justice allows for mercy while maintaining equity. With all pretense of innocence stripped away, the guilty may repent and seek mercy. Likewise, they may stand fast and accept a just reward for their deeds. But whether pardoned or punished, the verdict is fair and equitable to all.
Equality and fairness have everything to do with justice. They have little to do with the American legal system where degrees of guilt abound. In our legal system, prosecutors and investigators get to decide that some violations of the law are not worth prosecuting and let the blatantly guilty roam freely among us. The effort required to convict and the political ramifications of pursuing the guilty do not always suit the needs of those charged with administering the system who require votes, not equality. Sometimes it is more expedient to give criminals legal sanctuary or aid in their criminal pursuits than see justice done.
While justice may be blind, legality has its eyes wide open. Conviction and punishment are often dependent on the looks, wealth, and friends of those before the court. Restitution gets lip service; social acceptability gets obeisance. Justice rules over all men alike; legality serves those most adept at wielding it. Those same adept warriors defend the system that guards them saying that the system is not perfect, but it’s the best we have while making no effort to improve it.
The system is not perfect, that’s true enough—for the moment. But moments, courts and governments all pass away. Justice abides forever and there is no escaping its reach.
“If you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, you shalt love your neighbor as yourself, you do well: but if you have respect to persons, you commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.”