Strong and resolute she stands, the grandest of ladies, unhindered by her blindfold. In one hand she weighs justice in a balance while she confidently wields a sword in the other. She is so fixed on her task that she need not have the power of sight in order to weigh-out justice in her sphere.
This image of Lady Justice is so common that we overlook her true significance. She is customarily portrayed either in stone or in bronze. The choice of medium is not incidental. Stone and bronze convey the ideas of importance and permanence. Even the most powerful forces of man or of nature are unable to divert Lady Justice from her appointed task. Stone and bronze declare that justice is strong and stable. True Justice does not change with alterations in culture or political opinion. She is an ever-fixed mark towards which we should all be advancing.
Along with her blindfold and scales, Lady Justice is normally portrayed wielding a sword. Her sword conveys the idea of authority. She has both the power and the right to bring to the bar even the most highly placed person in society. While she may be blindfolded, no one is beyond the reach of her sword arm.
While the basic concepts presented in the image of Lady Justice are clear, there are certain questions that one might choose to raise. For example, why is she blindfolded? Or, what value is there in justice being blind?
Blind Justice symbolizes that she does not look at who it is that is seeking her. She always weighs the facts fairly and impartially regardless of social position, race, or other similar factors. When highly placed or powerful people escape justice, we are rightly angered.
Justice is not something that Christians can take lightly. The Bible clearly communicates God’s concern for justice. Leviticus 19:15, for example, warns against partiality in judging the people: “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly” (NASB). Deuteronomy 16:18-20 adds a warning about taking bribes and thus distorting justice.
Samuel Rutherford, a seventeenth century Scottish Presbyterian minister was well versed in the concept of Law; divine law, natural law, as well as positive law. In 1644 Rutherford published a treatise on the rule of law entitled Lex, Rex. In this work Rutherford argued, among other things, that the law alone has the right to rule sovereignly. Even the king is subject to the law. The concept Lex, Rex, (the law is king) rather than Rex, Lex (the king is the law) is part of the foundation for modern constitutional government. Lady justice is blindfolded so that even the king will be subject to the rule of law.
The rule of law, along with the later concept of the social contract, is essential to an ordered society. The social contract means that individuals consent to the loss of certain of their liberties in order to be governed by a state whose duty it is to protect their remaining rights. Both the rule of law and the concept of the social contract are essential to an ordered society. Without these two foundation stones modern democratic societies could not stand. Laws exist to protect people’s rights and it is the duty of the government to enforce those laws equitably.
This concept of a just law applies equally to all aspects of law. Failure to enforce any aspect of the law, including immigration law, undermines the authority of all law, both the law’s blindfolded impartiality and its rightfully authoritative sword. When the government picks and chooses which laws it enforces it ceases to act impartially and thus weakens law’s authority in all areas of its domain. This makes it almost impossible to have an ordered society in which citizens both respect the law and abide by its precepts.
The first order of business in any aspect of the law, including immigration law, is the rule of law. The rule of law is fundamental. In the midst of calls to amend U.S. immigration laws, there is little point in changing a law that is not currently being enforced. Nor is there any expectation of enforcing any new laws when current laws are unenforced. Until we take seriously the question of the rule of law, there is little point in arguing over the many details of immigration, such as the question of border walls or persons who were brought to this country when they were children. However, the rule of law should inform these questions as well.
Kevin D. Kennedy, Ph.D.