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The Signs of the Times, vol. 13

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    February 10, 1887

    “Justice Standeth Afar Off” The Signs of the Times 13, 6, pp. 86, 87.

    LAST week we presented some scriptures showing that the prophets in contemplating the times of the last days saw a great prevalence of injustice and oppression through the slackness and the wrong course of the law. If this were to be the one leading characteristic that would specially distinguish the last days, and if there were no other means of telling when we had reached the times of the last days, we verily believe that we might safely fix upon the present times as the ones referred to by the prophets. For now of a surety the law is deplorably slacked, and justice standeth literally afar off.SITI February 10, 1887, page 86.1

    This subject of the defeat of justice is one that is now, and has been for some time, exciting the attention of the leading periodicals and journals in the land. Very lately the New York Independent has given the public a series of able and interesting articles on this subject, from some of our leading jurists and authorities on law. Some time ago the North American Review devoted considerable space to a discussion of the same subject; the principal daily journals of the country have more or less to say upon it all the time; and it is a subject that cannot well escape the serious attention of every thinking person. Law is liberty. The integrity of just laws is the strongest safeguard of the rights and liberties of men in the civil compact.SITI February 10, 1887, page 86.2

    When through systematic perversion, evasion, or delay, the Law becomes slacked, there is lost to the citizen the sense of security which is his due under government, and which it is the duty and the province of government to provide. And such is fast becoming the normal condition in the field of jurisprudence throughout the whole country. justice awarded, is almost the exception rather than the rule, and even then comes after so long delay that the element of justice is a matter of doubt. In the Scriptures there is a parable given, called the parable of the unjust judge. And it seems that the point in the parable where his injustice appears, is in the fact of his delay. He seemed disposed to put off the case just as long as possible, and when at last he was brought to a decision, it was not with the primary idea of doing justice in the case, but to get rid of the petitioner who persisted in pressing her case for a decision. Luke 18:2-5.SITI February 10, 1887, page 86.3

    Having this inspired statement of the injustice of delay it is perfectly clear that now injustice is the rule in all our courts of law. Says Judge Learned in an article in the North American Review, June, 1885: “One cannot begin a lawsuit that involves a considerable amount, with any hope of a reasonably speedy decision. A year’s time would be short for its termination; and the plaintiff may not reach the end in three, four, or five years.” At present in the Supreme Court of the United States, on any case that takes its regular order on the docket, a decision is not expected inside of three years. Some of the State Supreme Courts are in about the same condition. In California, for instance, a decision is not expected now in much less than three years. And instances are well known wherein cases have been appealed to these courts for the express purpose of delaying the final decision for that length of time.SITI February 10, 1887, page 86.4

    But even when the case is at last reached and passed upon, there are so many precedents to follow, and so many technicalities raised that the chances are greatly in the majority that the case will be remanded for a new trial, and then the whole course has to be gone over again, perhaps with the same result, and the process be again repeated, until, as we personally know, there are cases which have passed through the Supreme Court three times; and then, in one case of which we know, only to be remanded to the lower court for a fourth trial. In April, 1885, the United States Supreme Court rendered a third decision in a case, and remanded it for a fourth trial. It was the case of a murderer in Utah. He had been three times tried for the same murder, three times found guilty, and three times sentenced to death. And upon some mere informality in the judge’s charge to the jury, the case was sent back for trail the fourth time. Since that we have not heard from it. It may be pending in the Supreme Court again, or the man may have died and put an end to the tedious process of law and failure of justice.SITI February 10, 1887, page 86.5

    This trick of repeated appeal and return is now almost always employed by the extremely wealthy—especially corporations, against a weaker contestant. Says a writer in the Independent, Jan. 6, 1887: “Rich suitors—especially powerful corporations—make use of their opportunities of appeal to tire out their weaker antagonists and force them to an unjust compromise of a just claim.” And again says the same writer: “Few persons in this democratic country will wish to see the time come when the highest courts in the land are closed to all but the rich.” That is certainly true, yet it is just as certainly true that the direct effect of such procedure is to virtually close the courts to all but the rich, and to place the poor at the mercy of the rich. And so the courts have almost ceased to be courts of justice, for justice standeth afar off, and equity cannot enter. Wealth is taking the place of justice, and trickery the place of equity. And when this is so, law ceases to be regarded, and violence takes its place. This is the way the matter is going now and it cannot continue long, they will break out, and blood touch blood, and violence fill the land. This is so in only civil affairs, and much more so is it in criminal; while the direct result of this lack in civil cases can only be to increase the criminal. And what shall the end be?SITI February 10, 1887, page 87.1