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Lady Justice

Lady Justice (Justitia, the Roman Goddess of Justice who is equivalent to the Greek Goddess Dike) is an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems.[1][2]

Contents

Depiction

Since the Renaissance, Justitia has frequently been depicted as a matron carrying a sword and scales, and sometimes wearing a blindfold. Her modern iconography, which frequently adorns courthouses and courtrooms, conflates the attributes of several goddesses who embodied Right Rule for Greeks and Romans, blending Roman blindfolded Fortuna (luck) with Hellenistic Greek Tyche (fate), and sword-carrying Nemesis (vengeance).

Justitia's attributes parallel those of the Hellenic deities Themis and Dike. Themis was the embodiment of divine order, law, and custom, in her aspect as the personification of the divine rightness of law. However, the mythological connection is not a direct one. A more appropriate comparison is Themis' daughter Dike, who was imagined carrying scales:

"If some god had been holding level the balance of Dike"

is an image in a surviving fragment of Bacchylides's poetry.

Justitia is most often depicted with a set of scales typically suspended from her left hand, upon which she measures the strengths of a case's support and opposition. She is also often seen carrying a double-edged sword in her right hand, symbolizing the power of Reason and Justice, which may be wielded either for or against any party.

Blindfold

As stated above, Lady Justice is often depicted wearing a blindfold. This is done in order to indicate that justice is (or should be) meted out objectively, without fear or favor, regardless of identity, money, power, or weakness: blind justice and blind impartiality. The earliest Roman coins depicted Justitia with the sword in one hand and the scale in the other, but with her eyes uncovered.[3] Justitia was only commonly represented as "blind" since about the end of the fifteenth century. The first known representation of blind Justice is Hans Gieng's 1543 statue on the Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (Fountain of Justice) in Berne.[4]

The blindfold raises some common questions:

Do you want to blindfold someone with a sword?....And how is she supposed to read the scales if she is blind? This troubled early representers of Justice; some thus gave her two faces like Janus, with the side bearing the sword prudently left unblindfolded.[5]

Instead of using the Janus approach, many sculptures simply leave out the blindfold altogether. For example, atop the Old Bailey courthouse in London, a statue of Lady Justice stands without a blindfold;[6] the courthouse brochures explain that this is because Lady Justice was originally not blindfolded, and because her “maidenly form” is supposed to guarantee her impartiality which renders the blindfold redundant.[7] Another solution to the conundrum is to depict a blindfolded Lady Justice as a human scale, weighing competing claims in each hand; this is done, for example, at the Shelby County Courthouse in Memphis, Tennessee.[8]

Justice in sculpture

Justice in painting

References

  1. ^ Hamilton, Marci. God vs. the Gavel, page 296 (Cambridge University Press 2005): “The symbol of the judicial system, seen in courtrooms throughout the United States, is blindfolded Lady Justice.”
  2. ^ Fabri, Marco. The challenge of change for judicial systems, page 137 (IOS Press 2000): “the judicial system is intended to be apolitical, its symbol being that of a blindfolded Lady Justice holding balanced scales.”
  3. ^ See "The Scales of Justice as Represented in Engravings, Emblems, Reliefs and Sculptures of Early Modern Europe" in G. Lamoine, ed., Images et representations de la justice du XVie au XIXe siecle (Toulouse: University of Toulose-Le Mirail, 1983)" at page 8.
  4. ^ Image of Lady Justice in Berne.
  5. ^ Miller, William. Eye for an Eye, page 1 (Cambridge University Press, 2006).
  6. ^ Image of Lady Justice in London.
  7. ^ Colomb, Gregory. Designs on Truth, page 50 (Penn State Press, 1992).
  8. ^ Image of Lady Justice in Memphis.

External links

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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

English

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Proper noun

Lady Justice (1)

Singular
Lady Justice

Plural
-

Lady Justice

  1. In a mythological personification, justice symbolized as a blindfolded young lady.
  2. A female judge, as in "Her Lady Justice".

Quotations

  • 1888, Edward Livermore Burlingame, Scribner's magazine, p. 35:
    ... Before our Lady Justice calm he stands
    To hear her grave, immutable commands ;
    ... She holds the balance true, with steady hands
    And strong, the little while wavereth.

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