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Quotations about Justice

It is the spirit and not the form of law that keeps justice alive.
~Earl Warren
Many laws as certainly make bad men, as bad men make many laws.
~Walter Savage Landor, Imaginary Conversations
Justice is open to everyone in the same way as the Ritz Hotel.
~Judge Sturgess
Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.
~John Godfrey Saxe, 1869 (Thanks, Garson O'Toole!)
Justice is the tolerable accommodation of the conflicting interests of society, and I don't believe there is any royal road to attain such accommodation concretely.
~Judge Learned Hand, in P. Hamburger, The Great Judge, 1946
An earthquake achieves what the law promises but does not in practice maintain - the equality of all men.
~Ignazio Silone
When you go into court you are putting your fate into the hands of twelve people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty.
~Norm Crosby
A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.
~Robert Frost
This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice.
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
The trouble with the laws these days is that criminals know their rights better than their wrongs.
~Author Unknown
Justice is incidental to law and order.
~John Edgar Hoover
Justice may be blind, but she has very sophisticated listening devices.
~Edgar Argo
Punishment is now unfashionable... because it creates moral distinctions among men, which, to the democratic mind, are odious. We prefer a meaningless collective guilt to a meaningful individual responsibility.
~Thomas Szasz
Any society that needs disclaimers has too many lawyers.
~Erik Pepke
No man suffers injustice without learning, vaguely but surely, what justice is.
~Isaac Rosenfeld
Somebody recently figured out that we have 35 million laws to enforce the ten commandments.
~Attributed to both Bert Masterson and Earl Wilson
I've never had a problem with drugs. I've had problems with the police.
~Keith Richards
There is plenty of law at the end of a nightstick.
~Grover Whalen
In the Halls of Justice the only justice is in the halls.
~Lenny Bruce
Although the legal and ethical definitions of right are the antithesis of each other, most writers use them as synonyms. They confuse power with goodness, and mistake law for justice.
~Charles T. Sprading, Freedom and its Fundamentals
If the laws could speak for themselves, they would complain of the lawyers in the first place.
~Lord Halifax
It's strange that men should take up crime when there are so many legal ways to be dishonest.
~Author unknown, quoted in Sunshine magazine
Hunger makes a thief of any man.
~Pearl S. Buck, quoted in You Said a Mouthful, edited by Ronald D. Fuchs
Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.
~Edmund Burke
But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.
~Frederic Bastiat, The Law
The more laws the more offenders.
~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732
Law: the only game where the best players get to sit on the bench.
~Author Unknown
It ain't no sin if you crack a few laws now and then, just so long as you don't break any.
~Mae West
Law never made men a whit more just.
~Henry David Thoreau
If you don't know there's a trampoline in the room, you're not going to dust the ceiling for prints.
~From the television show Law & Order
Lawsuit: A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.
~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
The United States is the greatest law factory the world has ever known.
~Charles Evans Hughes
The jury, passing on the prisoner's life,
May in the sworn twelve have a thief or two
Guiltier than him they try.

~William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
In keeping people straight, principle is not as powerful as a policeman.
~Abel Hermant, Le Bourgeois, 1906
When there's a single thief, it's robbery. When there are a thousand thieves, it's taxation.
~Vanya Cohen
I'm convinced that every boy, in his heart, would rather steal second base than an automobile.
~Tom Clark
We don't give our criminals much punishment, but we sure give 'em plenty of publicity.
~Will Rogers
Only the man who has enough good in him to feel the justice of the penalty can be punished.
~William Ernest Hocking
Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.
~Jonathan Swift, A Critical Essay upon the Faculties of the Mind, 1707
One of irony's greatest accomplishments is that one cannot punish the wrongdoing of another without committing a wrongdoing himself.
Capital punishment is as fundamentally wrong as a cure for crime as charity is wrong as a cure for poverty.
~Henry Ford
Poverty is the mother of crime.
~Marcus Aurelius
When I see the Ten Most Wanted Lists... I always have this thought: If we'd made them feel wanted earlier, they wouldn't be wanted now.
~Edie Cantor
The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.
~Anatole France (Jacques Anatole François Thibault), The Red Lily, 1894
It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do.
~Edmund Burke, Second Speech on Conciliation, 1775
Our government... teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.
~Louis Dembitz Brandeis
Capital punishment turns the state into a murderer. But imprisonment turns the state into a gay dungeon-master.
~Jesse Jackson
Injustice is relatively easy to bear; it is justice that hurts.
~H.L. Mencken
The vices of the rich and great are mistaken for error; and those of the poor and lowly, for crimes.
~Lady Marguerite Blessington
It is not a Justice System. It is just a system.
~Bob Enyart
War makes thieves and peace hangs them.
~George Herbert
Obscenity is whatever happens to shock some elderly and ignorant magistrate.
~Bertrand Russell, Look, 1954
A rule that cannot be bent will certainly be broken.
~Robert Brault, www.robertbrault.com
Those terrifying verbal jungles called laws are simply such directives, accumulated, codified, and systematized through the centuries.
~S.I. Hayakawa
Law is nothing unless close behind it stands a warm living public opinion.
~Wendell Phillips
An appeal... is when you ask one court to show its contempt for another court.
~Finley Peter Dunne
Men are too unstable to be just; they are crabbed because they have not passed water at the usual time, or testy because they have not been stroked or praised.
~Edward Dahlberg, The Sorrows of Priapus, 1957
Law is not justice and a trial is not a scientific inquiry into truth. A trial is the resolution of a dispute.
~Edison Haines
It is easier to commit murder than to justify it.
~Aemilius Papinianus
The greatest crimes are caused by surfeit, not by want.
~Aristotle, Politics
Corn can't expect justice from a court composed of chickens.
~African Proverb
Men fight for freedom, then they begin to accumulate laws to take it away from themselves.
~Author Unknown
The more corrupt the republic, the more numerous the laws.
~Tacitus, Annals
The houses of lawyers are roofed with the skins of litigants.
~Welsh Proverb
The greater the number of laws and enactments, the more thieves and robbers there will be.
Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little ones get caught.
~Honoré de Balzac
Just because the power is out doesn't mean we unplug the constitution.
~Law and Order, "Darkness"
A criminal is a person with predatory instincts who has not sufficient capital to form a corporation.
~Howard Scott
As one reads history, not in the expurgated editions written for schoolboys and passmen, but in the original authorities of each time, one is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted; and a community is infinitely more brutalised by the habitual employment of punishment than it is by the occasional occurrence of crime.
~Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism
We don't seem to be able to check crime, so why not legalize it and then tax it out of business?
~Will Rogers
A lawyer is a gentleman who rescues your estate from your enemies and keeps it for himself.
~Lord Brougham
A real patriot is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works.
~Bill Vaughan
The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.
~Frank Zappa
Rather let the crime of the guilty go unpunished than condemn the innocent.
~Justinian I, Law Code, A.D. 535
Judge: a law student who marks his own papers.
~H.L. Mencken
Thieves for their robbery have authority
When judges steal themselves.

~William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
I am further of opinion that it would be better for us to have [no laws] at all than to have them in so prodigious numbers as we have.
~Michel de Montaigne, translated
The law is an adroit mixture of customs that are beneficial to society, and could be followed even if no law existed, and others that are of advantage to a ruling minority, but harmful to the masses of men, and can be enforced on them only by terror.
~Peter Kropotkin, Words of a Rebel
Laws: We know what they are, and what they are worth! They are spider webs for the rich and mighty, steel chains for the poor and weak, fishing nets in the hands of the government.
~Pierre Joseph Proudhon, quoted in The Match!
The law embodies the story of a nation's development through many centuries, and it cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics.
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., The Common Law
There is no such thing as justice - in or out of court.
~Clarence Darrow, 1936
If the jury have no right to judge of the justice of a law of the government, they plainly can do nothing to protect the people against the oppressions of the government; for there are no oppressions which the government may not authorize by law.
~Lysander Spooner, Trial by Jury
It is well-nigh obvious that those who are in favor of the death penalty have more affinities with murderers than those who oppose it.
~Remy de Gourmont
It is hard to say whether doctors of law or divinity have made the greater advances in the lucrative business of mystery.
~Edmund Burke
The most absurd apology for authority and law is that they serve to diminish crime. Aside from the fact that the State is itself the greatest criminal, breaking every written and natural law, stealing in the form of taxes, killing in the form of war and capital punishment, it has come to an absolute standstill in coping with crime. It has failed utterly to destroy or even minimize the horrible scourge of its own creation.
~Emma Goldman, Anarchism
The state calls its own violence law, but that of the individual crime.
~Max Stirner, The Ego and His Own
Having your fate rest in the hands of a jury is the same as entrusting yourself to surgery with a mentally retarded doctor.
~Bill Messing, quoted in Dream World, by Fred Woodworth
Good lawyers know the law; great lawyers know the judge.
~Author Unknown
The law condemns and punishes only actions within certain definite and narrow limits; it thereby justifies, in a way, all similar actions that lie outside those limits.
~Leo Tolstoy, What I Believe
Order derived through submission and maintained by terror is not much of a safe guaranty; yet that is the only "order" that governments have ever maintained. True social harmony grows naturally out of solidarity of interests. In a society where those who always work never have anything, while those who never work enjoy everything, solidarity of interests is non-existent; hence social harmony is but a myth.... Thus the entire arsenal of governments - laws, police, soldiers, the courts, legislatures, prisons - is strenuously engaged in "harmonizing" the most antagonistic elements in society.
~Emma Goldman, Anarchism
Hug a police officer. It's the law!
~Author Unknown
Judges are but men, and are swayed like other men by vehement prejudices. This is corruption in reality, give it whatever other name you please.
~David Dudley Field
Crimes were committed to punish crimes, and crimes were committed to prevent crimes. The world has been filled with prisons and dungeons, with chains and whips, with crosses and gibbets, with thumbscrews and racks, with hangmen and heads-men - and yet these frightful means and instrumentalities have committed far more crimes than they have prevented.... Ignorance, filth, and poverty are the missionaries of crime. As long as dishonorable success outranks honest effort - as long as society bows and cringes before the great thieves, there will be little ones enough to fill the jails.
~Robert Ingersoll, Crimes Against Criminals
Every crime is born of necessity. If you want less crime, you must change the conditions. Poverty makes crime. Want, rags, crusts, misfortune - all these awake the wild beast in man, and finally he takes, and takes contrary to law, and becomes a criminal. And what do you do with him? You punish him. Why not punish a man for having consumption? The time will come when you will see that that is just as logical. What do you do with the criminal? You send him to the penitentiary. Is he made better? Worse. The first thing you do is to try to trample out his manhood, by putting an indignity upon him. You mark him. You put him in stripes. At night you put him in darkness. His feeling for revenge grows. You make a wild beast of him, and he comes out of that place branded in body and soul, and then you won't let him reform if he wants to.
~Robert Ingersoll, A Lay Sermon