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“There is no such thing as justice — in or out of court.” — Clarence Darrow interview in Chicago (April 1936)
You may have heard similar versions of this quote from numerous people who feel that they have been wronged by the law. However, consider the source of this quote. Clarence Darrow is a famous (infamous?) progressive lawyer, noted for defending controversial defendants and participating in the Scopes trial. Yet here, he is declaring that justice does not exist. What exactly was his goal as a lawyer, then?
Obviously, he was out to serve the interests of his client, but that does not explain why he became a lawyer. If he won a case, was it purely a victory for his client? Was it just for personal glory — to prove himself superior to the 12 men in the jury box and his opponent in the prosecutor’s chair?
In my opinion, the history of progressive politics suggests a darker interpretation than pure ego. What if this is a summary of the progressive goals in law? The courts and the rest of the justice system are only a theater for power conflicts. Law is war, or revolution, by other means. With this mindset, obviously there is no justice. There is only my side and your side, and my side had best win, no matter what. I think this fits the version of legal positivism that was in vogue at the time, as well as progressive revolutionary fervor.
It is notable that this statement was made in Chicago. Recent events in Chicago seem to confirm that Darrow’s worldview is alive and well in the Windy City.