• The most basic and important ideal of our legal system is justice.
  • There are two dimensions of justice.  These are formal justice and substantive justice.
  • Formal Justice:
  • Requires decisions be made in a non-arbitrary and consistent manner
  • Established legal rules must be followed
  • No person shall be regarded to be above the law
  • Every person of whatever rack or status is subject to laws of the land
  • There should be no arbitrary exercise of state power
  • This requirement generally includes:
  • No one can be punished except for a distinct breach of a pre-established law.
    • Rules must be established before hand.  If this is not done it is called retroactive application of law – making it illegal after the person has acted.
    • Pre-established laws must be publicly announced and relatively clear.  Once this is done, “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
  • Deciding whether or not the law has been breached should be done in an impartial manner.
    • Legal rules and not personal prejudices of judges, should determine what people deserve in a particular situation.
    • The judge is responsible for determining the most defensible legal resolution of the case in light of all the appropriate legal considerations.
    • Judges must treat similar cases in a similar way  – doctrine of precedent
  • Substantive Justice:
  • The rules themselves must be just.
  • Democratically elected governments are expected to make laws that promote values reflecting the wishes of the majority of citizens
  • Lobby groups can also influence legislative process
  • Minority rights are protected through constitutional rights as set out in the Charter (sections 1 and 33 place limitations on the protection offered.)
author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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