Why This Is Important
"Justice must be seen to be done", use to be a goal of the United States legal system. Now all pretence is gone and by leaps and bounds Judges do not even attempt to act like they are attempting to aim at justice.
Seattle’s King County Prosecutors and Judges are solid example of this corruption. Where lies, conflict of intrests and stubborn rebellion to examine facts for truth is their normal operating procedure.
It would do everyone well to understand what the good foundation that was destroyed by Prosecutors who get by with it because they are able to address themselves to a group of fools selected by the State. As King County Prosecutor of Seattle Washington Paul Sewell boasted to a jury pool this jury process is all a part of a "dog and pony show" for the government. 2
Serving on Jury Duty puts your soul at risk.
35 Dog and Pony Show pt 1
44 Do Not Simp For King County Prosecutors, Seattle
Justice Done & Seeming To Be Done, Lord Hewart
“Justice Must Be Seen To Be Done”: A Critical Principle In Our Judicial System
Western judicial systems are based on a wide range of elements. For starters, there are constitutions. These constitutions represent some of our most foundational principles and beliefs in how our society should be. They are so foundational that we almost take them for granted. For instance, you can say the words “First Amendment,” and almost every American will be able to name at least one right that is guaranteed by this amendment.
Beyond these seminal documents, our judicial system looks to federal and state statutes, common law, and sometimes international laws and principles. In the traditional ranking, there is nothing “higher” than constitutions. But at the same time, these statutes, common law, and legal principles are extremely important. Judges and juries look to these sources to administer justice.
In this article, however, I want to discuss a specific principle that is critical to justice systems around the world. It exists whether we are talking about civil litigation or criminal litigation.
That principle is the following: justice must be seen to be done.
This principle is a cornerstone of having a fair and impartial justice system. Not only does it ensure that each litigant has a fair experience in court, but it provides even more confidence in a country’s judicial system.
In this post, I want to spend some time exploring the origin of this principle and how it plays out in daily legal life. Even if you don’t interact with the legal system on a daily basis, understanding what the principle is can make you better appreciate a key tenet in our society.
What Is “Justice Must Be Seen to be Done?”
So let’s start with the most basic question. What does “justice must be seen to be done” actually mean?
Essentially, it means that legal proceedings should be conducted in an open manner and in a way that allows people to both watch and understand the legal process. To put it another way, the principle embraces sunshine within the legal process. Rather than conducting the majority of the legal process behind closed doors, “justice must be seen to be done” prioritizes transparency.
Notably, this includes several things. A key characteristic is a public trial. Rather than deciding the fate of a litigant behind closed doors, the principle requires the trial to be conducted where the litigants and the general public can see. But that’s not all. The principle requires the litigants to access legal documents. This makes intuitive sense for us who live in America, but centuries ago (and in some places today), this right has not necessarily been afforded to litigants.
There is another critical feature here. The principle requires the court to make decisions based on both law and evidence. Jurists need to put their personal opinions and biases aside in order to fairly administer justice. While this may be aspirational in nature (after all, it is virtually impossible to put all of our biases to the side), the point still stands: judges should follow the law and evidence over their own opinions.
These are just some of the foundational elements of “justice must be seen to be done.” But as you will see shortly, the key characteristic is justice being administered in public. Rather than making a decision with interested individuals behind closed doors, courts must keep the public perception of justice in mind.
Some Background to the Principle
That leads us to the principle’s origin. It is quite an interesting story.
It all comes from an idea from the Lord Chief Justice of England in a 1924 case. The Lord Chief Justice’s name was Lord Hewart.
But first things first. There was a dispute in England involving a man (named Mr. McCarthy) who was driving a motorcycle. McCarthy’s motorcycle collided with another motorcycle. That second motorcycle was carrying a man (Whitworth) and his wife, and both of them suffered some injuries from the crash.
After the crash, the police instituted criminal actions against McCarthy. Along with the criminal charges, Whitworth hired a private law firm to seek damages from McCarthy. The criminal case went to trial and was heard before a panel of judges. Critically, one of the judges had a clerk who was a partner at the law firm that Whitworth had hired. But on the actual day of the hearing, that clerk was away on holiday. His brother (who was also a partner at the law firm) took his place and acted as deputy clerk.
Once the arguments were heard, the deputy clerk went with the judges to their chamber. Once they had deliberated, they all returned to the courtroom, where they ruled against McCarthy. They fined him 10 pounds and associated costs. After the decision was handed down, McCarthy appealed. His focus was on the deputy clerk. Specifically, he argued that the deputy clerk shouldn’t have retired to chambers with the judges because he was conflicted (due to his position at the law firm representing Whitworth in the civil lawsuit).
This is where Lord Hewart comes in. Sitting on the King’s Bench (which oversaw the appeal), he delivered the principle that “justice must be seen to be done.” Essentially, Lord Hewart argued that while the deputy clerk hadn’t discussed the case with the lower court judges, his sheer appearance there was an issue. In other words, what was done wasn’t as important as what may have appeared to be done.
It seemed like a biased judgment. Even though it may not have been, that suspicion and appearance of bias was enough to overturn the lower court’s ruling.
The Effects of “Justice Must Be Seen To Be Done”
This principle may only be around 100 years old, yet it is an important part of legal systems around the world.
For instance, let’s talk about the U.S. legal system. While there may not be entire courses on this specific principle in American law schools, the principle is incorporated into many different elements of American law. This includes everything from legal ethics to criminal procedure and constitutional law. Every law student understands that the American legal system should be a bastion of fairness and transparency.
The appearance of biased and conflicted closed-door decisions is antithetical to what the U.S. legal system stands for. For instance, in America, trials are generally open to the public. Many court records and documents are a matter of public record. This includes things like case filings, opinions, and judgments. And even though it may not seem like the most obvious thing, media coverage of trials and hearings is extremely important. Reporting ensures that legal proceedings are seen and understood by a large public audience.
Ultimately, public oversight is key to the American judicial system. Yes, judges and juries are making the final decisions on civil and criminal matters. But at the same time, those decisions are not made in a vacuum. Judges and juries understand that they must do their best to put their biases aside and remain objective because the public is watching. If there are blatant violations of the law or conflicts of interest, the public will know and respond.
As you can guess, the U.S. legal system isn’t the only one that has adopted this principle. Naturally, the principle has expanded in the United Kingdom. There have been several instances where the sheer appearance of bias or impropriety has led to the reversal of lower decisions.
One of the more famous examples of this involved Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet was arrested in the U.K. He faced more than 190 charges, including the killing of Spanish citizens and conspiracy to commit torture. After a 16-month trial in the House of Lords, a judgment was issued against Pinochet. Critically, however, that judgment was set aside in a subsequent case. This happened because a Lord’s wife worked at Amnesty International. Amnesty International had campaigned against Pinochet for decades and had been involved in the case against him.
This shows how seriously the U.K. takes this principle. The sheer appearance of impropriety resulted in the setting aside of the judgment. Even though there may not have actually been any impropriety, the principle of “justice must be seen to be done” prevailed.
Safeguarding Our Judicial System
“Justice must be seen to be done” may be a simple principle. Many of us can understand what Lord Hewart was trying to advocate. At the same time, the simplest principles are often the most powerful. It is based on the key foundations of transparency, fairness, and objectivity.
Whether you are appearing in a courtroom or are simply a watchful citizen, it is easy to see this principle at work in the United States. It is also easy to take it for granted. So the next time that you read about some litigation in your hometown or are appearing in court for your own life, go ahead and take a second to thank Lord Hewart. Without this principle, our courts—and life in America—would be drastically different.
Jury Duty Podcast
The Consider Podcast attempts to express opinions through God’s holiness. Nothing concerning justice or injustice should be taken as legal advice or a call to action. There is no political agenda. There is no individual moral life advice. Indeed, each person is solely responsible before God and man for their actions or inactions. The Consider Podcast is narrowly focused on one thing, and only one thing – the need for all to surrender to a life of repentance according to the whole gospel.
The Consider Podcast
Examining today’s wisdom, folly and madness with the whole gospel.