Commonly a symbol for fairness and impartiality before the law, Lady Justice, also known as “Justitia,” is usually depicted blindfolded, with scales in one hand, and a sword in the other. The message of each prop is straightforward. The blindfold represents impartiality, the scales represent a precise weighing of evidence, and the sword represents swift justice. Interestingly, Justitia only donned her blindfold in the 16th century. What happened? Before then, she didn’t need a blindfold. Remarkably, her innate character trait of fairness was presumed and unquestioned.
Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote in Griffin v. Illinois (1956), “There can be no equal justice where the kind of trial a man gets depends on the amount of money he has.” Seven years later, even more famous words rang out. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” This pronouncement, uttered by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., has been quoted innumerable times as expressing the fundamental value of absolute impartiality, of taking all possible measures to safeguard against bias, judicial or otherwise.
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