Fundamental Law and Courts-Related: ARTICLE

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Maxims of Law Help Assure Justice - Their Absence Assures Injustice
by Shane Flait (2011)

 

It’s important for each of us that court processes are fair – fair to litigants or defendants. Our founding fathers understood how courts can become corrupt and rule to their own best interests and for their benefactors. That’s why they insisted that a jury – as representative of the public – was essential in any legal action where substantial money or rights were at stake.

 

But whether or not a jury is present, a court’s processes and deliberations should adhere to the Maxims of Law to help assure fairness and justice also. When the Maxims are ignored, courts are surely serving something other than justice. Here are key Maxims to know.

 

Maxims represent self-evident truths that all reasonable persons would recognize. An example is that all men (including women) are created equal. That means each of us has a right to be treated equally under law – not that we have the same physical or mental abilities. If we saw that one person is not afforded the legal rights of another in the court process, we’d recognize that injustice was occurring.

 

We expect the courts to abide by the Maxims as evidence that they’re promoting fair dealings and unbiased judgments - which is the purpose of the courts. So, courts should use Maxims to help guide their determinations in the same way as geometers use its axioms.

 

Courts judgments are to adhere to either a specific law or to what is fair if no specific law addresses the issue. Such determinations refer to ‘in law’ and ‘in equity’ actions, respectively. An ‘in equity’ determination would be how assets should be divided among husband and wife at divorce. In the U.S.¸ a single civil court can combine both equity and law determinations. All criminal cases are ‘at law’. 

 

The ‘common law’ tradition in the U.S. refers to relying on previous judgments decided by Appeals courts when a judge in a trial court determines his judgment. Of course such precedent judgments should reflect the wisdom of time and incorporate the Maxims of law.

 

Now let’s see some key Maxims of law so you’ll recognize when they’re operating or not in a court action whether ‘in law’ or ‘in equity’. Law principles are not mysterious; they should be obvious to reasonable persons. If they’re not, something is wrong. 

 

Key Maxims of Law to know

 

- No one is punished unless for some wrong act or fault on his part.

Judgments which appear punitive must come from faults or wrong acts that warrant such punishment - as judged by reasonable persons.

- Law is unjust where it is uncertain or vague in its meaning.

A reasonable person should know when he’s breaking a law since violating it brings consequence on him. Vague laws are a tyranny to reasonable persons. They’re unconstitutional for that.

- No one should be believed except upon his oath.

A witness must be sworn in to give testimony so he can be charged with perjury - a felony (a serious crime) – if later found to be intentionally lying. No ‘swearing in’ means no perjury can be charged.

-Perjured witnesses must be punished for perjury and for crimes they falsely accuse others of.

Punishing perjury enforces truth in testimony. Without truth, there can be no justice.

-The burden of proof lies on him who asserts the fact – not on him who denies it.

This is based on the fact that you can’t prove a negative. As an example, if someone asserts you have money to pay him, and you don’t, then it’s the asserter that must prove you have money. It’s not for you to prove you don’t have it. It’s the same with threatening or hitting someone.

- The certainty of a thing arises only from making a thing certain.

This implies that the court should seek clear proof of allegations made against someone and not rule on just the allegations or weakly supported ones.

-No man should profit by his own wrong.

Courts should not reward litigants who are responsible for the wrong brought before the court. An extreme case is the child that pleads mercy because he’s an orphan – but only because he murdered his parents.

- It’s natural that he who bears the charge of a thing, should receive the profits.

To the extent you bare the obligation for something is the extent to which you should receive its benefits. Only slaves have obligations without benefits.

-He who uses his legal rights harms no one.

Protecting oneself in the legal process should not be considered a wrong to be punished by the court.

-The safety of the people cannot be judged but by the safety of every individual. 

Laws which supposedly protect the safety of some people at the expense of other people’s rights violate this maxim. Such laws don’t create safety but tyranny.

 

Actions at law with judicial processes that ignore these Maxims are not just. In fact, they represent purposeful injustice to a litigant. Such a court process is a sham to benefit special interests and not justice. Judges who participate in them commit treason.

 

END

 

Shane Flait is a writer and educator