Justice to be Served

I believe in our justice system. As flawed as it may be, as tilted as it might be towards those who can afford more and better attorneys, as prone as it could be towards handicapping itself on technicalities, I still believe in it.

I do not move to convict prior to trial, and I do not question the verdict delivered by jurors. For me such actions only undermine a judicial system that was designed to protect everyone, not just the privileged. As Americans, we tend to forget this.

Did OJ really do it? I don’t know, and I don’t care. While Court TV made that case available for the world to watch, there were only twelve jurors in that court room, and their verdict remains as sacred and vital to the integrity of our court system as any other verdict handed down. What about the Menendez brothers, another famous, or infamous, court case that colored my teen years?

Again, as someone who was not a member of the jury, I can’t comment.

Mine is not to criticize the court though there have been, and most assuredly do remain, times when such criticism is necessary. A black man sent to face an all white jury in the deep South during the time of segregation could hardly be judged fair and in keeping with the intent of a jury of one’s peers. As I’ve said, the scales of justice can tip overly in favor of the strong over the weak, but that does not change my opinion.

I am not prone to condemn someone as guilty or not when that is the job of a jury, and I am not one to question the judgment of a jury once the process is complete. These are not my concerns.

What is my concern is that people have their day in court; a right that in my mind must never be infringed upon. At its worst, this country’s courts may be corrupt, and aid the already powerful over the insignificant, but at its best it can give voice to those with no voice, and grant them the power to beat back the mighty. For better or for ill, this imperfect system of justice should be closed to no one.

Which was what truly bothered me about the case with Jamie Leigh Jones, a young woman who had alleged that she had been gang raped by co-workers, and then kept under guard in a holding container. The acts described were beyond heinous, but what would turn out to be the most heinous of all would be a clause in her employment contract that would prevent her from having her day in court.

Employment contracts with Kellogg, Brown, and Root, formerly a subsidiary of Halliburton, specify that the only course of action for employees seeking to settle grievances with the company is through private arbitration. For Jamie Leigh Jones, such a closed door, no jury, off the record meeting was the best she was going to get when it came to justice.

Until now.

A Texan district judge, Keith Ellison, has ruled that Jones can bring her case to court, overriding the clause that would normal condemn Jones’ allegations to secretive arbitration.

And here we see that justice now has the opportunity to be served. I will not say that KBR is automatically guilty, nor that it is free of responsibility. I won’t go so far as to say that the atrocities actually occurred or not, nor will I pass judgment upon who is responsible and who is not if they did occur.

That is not for me, or for any of us really, to do. That is for a jury of peers, and thanks to Judge Ellison, Jamie Leigh Jones gets to take her case to just such a jury. And for the other women who have claims to similar travesties, women like Tracy Barker, perhaps Jones reversal of fortune bodes well for them too.

One Response to “Justice to be Served”

  1. DrGail says:

    This is another item to be added to the legislative wish-list for a Democratic president with a Democratic congress: ensuring that people are not coerced into signing their rights away, either to obtain a job or to avoid termination. It’s so basic.

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