Recently the “Union of Justice Workers and Allied Trades” entered into wage negotiations with the Judges’ employer, the people of BC. In adversarial negotiations, each side has secrets, not unlike poker players do. Information is power and the secrets of each is desiderata for the other.
In the course of their work, Judges, demand the whole Truth from their customers, just like priests taking confessions do, and occasionally they get it, I am told. Judges also peddle “Independence” and I will check for truth in advertising. But my core concern is the millennia-old question raised by Plato, propagated by Juvenal and popularized as: Who is to guard the guards?
Evidently, the affliction of Judges with commandeering information has permeated into their labour organization and someone saw an opportunity – They could deploy the judges’ omnipotence to wrangle from the Government negotiating strategy secrets and use them to tip the odds in favour of the Judges.
Upon recovering from the hit with the Freedom of Information Act bat, the Government chaps scratched their heads and came up with the antidote. They shielded their secrets with the Protection of Privacy Act. Then the dispute landed in court for an independent resolution.
The job was assigned to a “Master of the Court” – they are to Judges what Lieutenants are to Captains of the Calvary. This lowering the dispute to Master level was, I presume, to leave the Judges out of it, lest it raises doubts about the Judges signature tune of independence. The Master crafted a thoroughly independent order to the government to shell out the info, or else. The process is amusing and I hope the media keep us enlightened.
I wade into this because the issue of who watches the watchdogs is fascinating. In a rare attendance at Sunday School, the priest was preparing us go through life confessing regularly to him, or his successors and I asked him where he confesses. He scolded me severely for that indiscretion.
Of course, the answer to Plato’s concern is a single word: “Democracy”. It is we, the people, who must watch the watchdogs.
My foray into this was triggered by a letter to the editor in the Victoria T-C from an irate citizen castigating the paper for contacting a Sociologist instead of a Lawyer to comment on the Judges v. Government melee. The letter-writer’s concerns mirror a cleverly induced belief that Justice is done if lawyers see it done and inform us accordingly. We, the populace, convinced as they have made us that we are incapable to recognize injustice when we perceive it done, must rest assured on the word of lawyers that justice is dispensed impeccably in the Courtrooms of the nation. I for one would not rest easy on their assurances.
This is not to say that lawyers never speak in good faith. The problem is that Lawyers are trained to say what they say. You do not expect the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano to advertise vacations in Devil’s Hell. Similarly unlikely is that Lawyers are credible, when liturgizing the Justice system. Regrettably they have misled us to be content with the lawyers’ assurances that the injustice we perceive is a mirage due to our ineptitude on matters legal. This conventional belief worries me because such unwarranted trust is highly detrimental to sustaining the freedom that would let us enjoy life on Earth.
During the Cold War, the people on the one side of the divide were mentored by “Capitalist Economists”, those on the other by “Communist Economists”. The “scientificity” level of both breeds was comparably low. Each variety was revered in their respective zone, but feared and abhorred across the divide. It is all understandable, for they were skillfully groomed to be “Prophets of the System” of those who had trained them.
“Economics” is a “soft science”, but so is Justice, as evidenced by 5/4 split decisions made at the apex, in the Supreme Court of Canada. Lawyers are “Prophets” of the prevailing justice system and their testimony should meet our “Thanks but no thanks”.
Instead of listening to Lawyers’ liturgies for the system, we must assert our entitlement to see with our own eyes justice done. For unless we do, no matter what sophistry they may attire it in, injustice will persist. Powers corrupts, judges being prone to it, too.