We need these things so that we can make informed judgments about the truth of the matter, and because what we would want if we in an analogous situation is to be judged not on the brand of our computer, on the kind of jackets we wear, or on the basis of the people we used to play basketball with, but on what we actually did or didn’t do. I don’t want to be reduced to the category “absent-minded professor” as a way of judging my psyche and thereby not taking me and my arguments seriously, any more than I suppose other people want to be reduced to the category “stay-at-home mother of six rowdy youngsters” or “hard-nosed female boss with a reputation for bitchiness” or “white cop.” Reality is usually more complicated than even the best novels can portray, and characters are often more complex than even the best writers can make them. People who want to write short stories should do so. Reporters should stick to the facts.
The health of a society is shown not when they’ve forced on the court what they’ve convinced themselves is the “right” outcome of a trial; it is, rather, when they’ve had the patience to allow “due process,” with all its faults and restrictions, to do the limited job it was designed to do. Justice isn’t only something judges and juries do. It’s something we establish every day – in the way we live with others, in the way we speak humbly, in deference to reality and the truth of things.
Randall B. Smith is Professor of Theology and current holder of the Scanlan Foundation Chair in Theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. He was also the 2011-12 Myser Fellow at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture.