Words of Justice
The Writing on the Walls
This spring, artists transformed the walls outside Milstein East in the Wasserstein Hall, Caspersen Student Center, Clinical Wing Building into a gallery of quotations about law and justice. The quotations span the period between 600 BCE and the present day.
“The words on these walls affirm the power and irrepressibility of the idea of justice,” reads Dean Martha Minow’s introduction to the exhibit. “They give testimony to the endurance of humanity’s yearning for fairness and dignity through law.”
Hand-stenciled line by line, the “Words of Justice” exhibit was a collaborative law school effort involving faculty, staff and students. The 33 quotes were culled from the 350 that had been submitted. Seven are reprinted below.
Sir William Blackstone
It is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer.
Blackstone’s Commentaries on the laws of England, Book the Fourth, Chapter the Twenty-Seventh: Of Trial, and Conviction (1809 edition).
Laws too gentle are seldom obeyed; too severe, seldom executed.
Poor Richard’s Almanack, Being Almanacks of 1733, 1749, 1756, 1757, 1758, first written under the name of Richard Saunders, by Benjamin Franklin, Doubleday, Doran and Co. Inc., Garden City, 1928.
Magna Carta of King John, 1215
To no one will We sell, to none will We deny or defer, right or justice.
Agreement Between K. John and the Barons by Grant of Liberties to the Church and Kingdom of England, translated by William Basevi Sanders, Esq., assistant keeper of Her Majesty’s records (1952). Printed at the Ordnance Survey Office, Southampton.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.
Strength to Love, Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, 1963.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
To make laws that man can not and will not obey, serves to bring all law into contempt.
History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 1, 1848-1861, edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage, Arno & The New York Times, New York, 1969.
Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.
A Tale of a Tub and Other Stories, Intro. by Lewis Melville, E.P. Dutton & Co. Inc., New York, 1909 (A Tale of a Tub orig. published, 1704).
Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Let each know that, for each, the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.
Inaugural Speech, Pretoria, May 10, 1994. Nelson Mandela, In His Own Words, From Freedom to the Future, Tributes and Speeches, edited by Kader Asmal, David Chidester, Wilmot James, Little, Brown, Great Britain, 2003.
Illustrations by Anthony Russo