How To Balance the Scales of Justice

We’re all familiar with the symbol: Lady Justice carrying the balance scales. She holds a sword and sometimes is blindfolded to show a lack of prejudice. In most depictions the scales are balanced. She has righted the scale to dispense justice. But sometimes the scales are uneven.

What Is Being Weighed?
Perhaps the most common interpretation of the symbol is that evidence on both sides of an issue is being compared. Which side has the heaviest evidence? Does that mean there are more witnesses, more exhibits? What weight does the credibility of the claims bear?

But consider whether the scales might represent something else. There is an imbalance between the parties. Now our justice system is trying to return them to equilibrium.

Rebuilding Balance
As a civilized society, we have granted the government monopoly control over this process. We do not condone vigilante justice. The result is the complex legal system we have today which might leave the parties still feeling unbalanced.

One way our system restores equity between the parties is to impose legal sanctions against wrong-doers. In civil cases this is a money judgment, some of which might be as punitive damages. When a case has gone this far, the parties have surrendered control of the process to the system.

The alternative, which is how approximately 96% of all cases conclude, is settlement. A settlement usually provides financial compensation to the claimant and halts all parties’ expense and stress. Civil settlements avoid a judgment of record. A confidentiality provision can protect all parties’ reputations.

A professional mediator can help parties feel they have achieved better balance by exploring other options, too, such as an apology or agreement to change procedures. Unlike with a money judgment, settlement offers opportunities for creative financial arrangements to better meet the claimant’s needs with the available funds. This might be a structured settlement or a special needs or reversionary trust. Use a mediator who understands these options.