The faces of justice

Katarzyna Woynarowska

Stop judging, that you may not be judged…The work of a lawyer is to mainly judge others, to evaluate their conducts, intentions, emotions or the lack of emotions, even the level of their humanity. And this judgment will decide about the fate of not only one person but also numerous people. People often think that judges, public prosecutors and attorneys are only severe officials, slaves of legal regulations, some cogs in the great machine of the court system. They compare someone’s fate with legal paragraphs and check their chances of victory. They demand big fees for their services since they know that the stake is someone’s freedom, good name or money. They judge, evaluate and verify the conducts of other people but they admit themselves that it is not easy to carry the burden of such responsibility; that no studies, even the most prestigious ones, are helpful. Immense knowledge is only the beginning. Like in any other profession there are decent and less decent people. There are some that care for their profits and careers and there are some that treat their profession as mission.

The one that is to judge others should be well prepared to this task. Such a person should not only know the law and its application but should be a person gifted with unique characteristic – sense of justice. Some judge I know says that with time routine creeps into your work. You repeat the same activities; every day you face human ruthlessness, brutality, cruelty and these must create defensive barriers in you. Otherwise, you cannot psychologically bear many situations. ‘Children’s cases are the most difficult ones’, says Malgorzata, a family court judge. ‘I cannot get used to them. I do not mean abuse but common negligence. Dirt, a child who has never been to a doctor…At school he is called ‘blockhead’ and the psychologist’s opinion says, ‘unique child but neglected.’ The court is to decide whether such a kid should be sent to an orphanage or left with the mother who cares for nothing… You cannot fall asleep after such a day…You remember some cases for years and forget others that fade one after another. Routine? It is the inseparable consequence of any profession. However, you must remember that besides the little praiseworthy routine you gain experience, which is especially priceless in this profession. When you hear hundreds of evidence, get to know the dark sides of people’s characters, after hearing just a few words of evidence you can know who prevaricates, who tells innocent lies and who is sincere. ‘For the last several years I could not understand how you could return home and prepare a meal after having been to the place of a bloody crime, having seen the documents of a crime, including pictures’, says Anna Wolniak, a public prosecutor. It is commonly known that prosecutor’s work is most difficult from the psychological perspective. Some cannot cope with the pressure. Anna, who has worked for 20 years as a public prosecutor, admits that you must be tough to carry the burden of investigation and inquiry. Sometimes a robust man gives up this job after a few years and a fragile woman is an excellent public prosecutor. Perhaps no other profession makes you face such an amount of ruthlessness and cruelty, human hypocrisy and cunning. People usually complain about lawyers, forgetting that they have taken them out of serious troubles. Lawyers are aware of their fames; they know that people will remember their defeats although they have won a hundred times. Many of them, wanting to avoid the label ‘takes big fees and an ordinary citizen cannot afford to hire him’ get involved in social activities. They do not do it only once a year, on the occasion of the International Day for Victims when people can get free legal advice. (By the way, on that day one can see a great legal ignorance of our society and the demand for fundamental legal help.) They offer free advice throughout the year. Basically, there is such an advice centre in every city. They offer help to the poor, the unemployed, most often in cases of civil law. They seldom help in cases of criminal law because it has happened that even criminals have come for their advice. The number of those who want to use such centres is increasing. People have no idea what rights they have, where they should look for help and who is legally obliged to help them. But there is the other side of the coin. It is from Poland that people send the biggest amounts of complaints to Strasburg. Poland is also mentioned on the list of the most corrupt countries in the European Union, including its judicial system. The participants of law proceedings grumble about slowness, long intervals between trials, the non-enforcement of judgements, etc. One of numerous stories: Marysia was knocked down by a car when she was in the zebra crossing. It was during the day and there were many witnesses. However, almost two years passed before the first trial took place. So far the court has not passed a valid sentence. And five years passed. Marysia is not the only one who stopped believing in the system of administration of justice. Danuta, the sister of Krzysztof Olewnik who was brutally murdered, openly says that she does not believe in any human justice. One can whitewash the most atrocious murder; one can corrupt witnesses and go the wrong way. One can do one’s best to prevent the truth from being revealed. Zbyszek went to prison because he shot a thug with his double-barrelled shotgun. The thug jumped over the fence into Zbyszek’s garden. The thug was seriously injured. The judge said that Zbyszek misused the right to self defence and now he has to serve his sentence and he is to finance the criminal’s medical treatment. The offender was brought before the court but he was given a one-year suspension. He was unrecorded and so was Zbyszek. One can more frequently hear that the administration of justice treats offenders better than victims; that offenders know the reality of the court and know how to use weaknesses and lacunas in the law. Decent people have no such possibilities; they are at the mercy of the experts of the legal norms. The faces of justice vary according to the cases that are to be judged. Those who wear gowns, which resemble the togas of the Roman senators, symbolising wisdom, knowledge, impartiality and noble intentions, are also various people.

"Niedziela" 10/2009

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: