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By Tom Ewell


Regardless of your thoughts about the Trump verdict this week, the drama of it all reminded me again what it means to live under the rule of law. Although most of us will not be directly impacted by the criminal justice system, we all derive substantial benefit from the protections it affords us. 

The basis of a justice system is our need to be protected as much as possible from harm, whether personal, communal or national. I want to celebrate that our criminal justice and court systems have over time replaced  models of justice administered by unilateral and unaccountable application of strong arm bullies and police forces alone. Instead we have a system ideally exemplified by the symbol of Lady Justice with the ideal of justice being blind (impartial of wealth or power), holding a scales (offering a balanced approach to resolving unjust situations), and a sword (representing the ability to hold someone accountable for the harm they have caused). 

The model proceedings of the Trump trial largely exemplified the ideal developed by civilized societies for centuries and now established by codified law. The offender and the victim are allowed the opportunity to present their views of an alleged harm before a group of their peers, not just before biased judges. The case is framed by a code of law, not just arbitrary rules, that will establish the validity of the various arguments. I see this as a remarkable privilege and protection for both of the principle parties in the case. And so I deeply respect and honor this system and the judges who administer it!

In my ideal world people would be trusted to not only do no harm but would help each other avoid the extreme situations in which a person or an institution commits significant harm to others. But every one of us must feel protected from wanton harm, and those who do harm must be held accountable under a fairly administered law enforcement and trial system. Hence our criminal justice system. After years of working within the system, I acknowledge how much the execution of justice is essential to societal welfare, and I am pleased it does work, albeit with serious faults. When it works, I am safer as a result. (For a vision of an alternative to our present criminal just system called restorative justice, see below.)*

In our current topsy-turvy world where so many things seem so untrustworthy and unreliable, the Trump trial represents a significant moment of assurance that our social systems really can and do work when they are given the opportunity under established structures, honorable leadership and unbiased participation. I didn’t realize how much I needed to see the fabled “arc of justice” shining a bit brighter on the horizon this week. I am also reluctant to be too optimistic as well. Whether or not honor, compassion, and creative alternatives to the fog of lies and dysfunction that obscure the “arc of justice” will continue to rise and fade away is way too early to tell. But the trial is a boost of hope.  



*Restorative Justice 
For most of my career  I have promoted a variation of justice that is not reliant solely on codified law. Rather than limit the harm done by simply looking at whether a law was broken, I have worked to implement what is called restorative justice where we ask what harm has been done between individuals in the criminal justice system and by addressing systemic injustice through “truth and reconciliation." Harmful behavior is treated as a serious betrayal of personal and social trust that has critically harmed a relationship between the offender and in the affected community that now also feels unsafe. The model, however, depends on the willingness of all parties to acknowledge the level of harm done and to express remorse and usually some level of accountability, including, but not limited to, punishment. Ideally not only are the victim and the offender able to assess that impact of the harm done to them and the wider community, but the empathetic experience will reestablish relationships and no further incidents of harm will follow. (For more information about restorative justice see

When the restorative justice model cannot apply, as in the Trump trial because there is so much denial about the harm done, the more established process of codified, litigated justice is necessary, and, in this case, successful. 


Read Tom Ewell's weekly Saturday Evening Post blog on his  website.
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