Advice for Judges from the Bible

I’m a trial lawyer.

And as a trial lawyer, my job requires dealing with judges.

Even if you are not a trial lawyer, you should be concerned about judges because judges are the dispensers of justice in our society.

And, if we do not have a good judges we will not have justice, and justice is foundational not only to a healthy culture but to the kingdom of God. (Isaiah 9:7).

Fortunately, the Bible is quite clear as to what makes a good judge; it is stated in Deuteronomy 16:18-20. There are three principle qualifications:

  1. They must be impartial. Judges must be impartial. Deuteronomy 16:19. Judges must not distort (“stretch” or “bend”) justice based on their relationship to the parties appearing before them or based on the wealth or social standing of those parties.
  2. They must be ethicalThe second instruction is akin to the first: judges must be bribe-proof; they must have integrity. Deuteronomy 16:19. Perhaps anticipating some judges may believe they are smart enough that they can take bribes and still do justice, the admonitions continues, “for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous.” Id.
  3. They must do justiceLastly—and this gets to the substance of what they do—judges must do justice and only justice; they must judge with righteous (or “right”) judgment. Deuteronomy 16:18, 20. In other words, judges should be excellent in dispensing justice. This means they must study the law, read what the parties put in front of them, study the evidence, and rule according to the law.

What is disheartening to me is that in our country we do not choose judges based primarily on these three qualifications. Instead, we want to know their political ideology. In any system involving humans you get what you reward. We reward judicial ideology, whether it be on the left or the right, by making judges’ political beliefs the litmus test for their fitness to judge. It shouldn’t surprise us then that our judiciary has become politicized.

When I show up in court this week for the hearing I have scheduled, I don’t want to appear in front of a Republican, a Democrat, or a Libertarian, I want to appear in front of a judge who is impartial, ethical, and who will rightly and excellently dispense justice. Most trial lawyers would tell you the same thing, and in affirming this they would be implicitly acknowledging that the Great Judge knows something about judging. GS

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