• 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.)
READ:
Bigger's Sense of Justice in Richard Wright’s Native Son

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