Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Saturday, May 21, 2005  

He explained that compassion was not an attribute that could be taught, or legislated for, or in any way insisted upon, for the reason that it was an unavoidable by-product of the imagination. If one were not gifted (or perhaps in some cases the better word might be burdened) with imagination, then one was unlikely to be compassionate. A compassionate person was a person who through his imagination, would himself suffer as he perceived others to suffer, not because he wished to do so, but because he had no choice in the matter, and, because he shared imaginatively the suffering of others, he naturally would be inclined to relieve such suffering where he could...

He understood that the law was a powerful instrument, created, not by God (as some would claim), but by man--an instrument, a tool like a gun or a cutlass, which could be wielded for good or for evil. It could be an instrument for punishment and prohibition, and it could be cruel in its application; or it could be used benignly, to liberate the human spirit and to humanize society. His judgments were invariably benign. And all of them sang with this high purpose. In one judgment he would pour scorn on the conventional notion that because a person held high office, that person should be held immune from criticism and exempt from having to account for his personal deficits like any other man. In another, he would refuse to endorse the hypocrisy of a legal system which pretended to protect the weak from abuse at the hands of the State, while denying to him every practical means by which he might invoke such protection. In yet another, perhaps his most illustrious, certainly his most courageous and progressive judgment, he refused to accept that condemned murderers because they had been sentenced to death were thereby shorn of all their legal rights and could be made with impunity to suffer wanton cruelty at the hands of sadistic bureaucrats and exploitative politicians. His judgments seldom received universal approval at the time of their delivery from a public and a profession grown accustomed to preferring a more simplistic and brutal approach to the resolution of complex social issues. But in due course all his controversial rulings received endorsements at the highest level, and some have become landmarks in the evolution of human rights jurisprudence.

-- From attorney Frank Solomon's eulogy at the funeral yesterday of one of T&T's most eminent judges, Justice James (Jim) Davis.

posted by Jonathan | 1:57 PM 0 comments


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