The Preamble of our Constitution states:
"We, the People of the United States of America, in order to create a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Note that the preamble states that the purpose of the Constitution is to establish justice. There is no mention of the "rule of law". The problem is in defining exactly what "justice" means. Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines justice as:
- a : the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments b : JUDGE c : the administration of law; especially : the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity
- a : the quality of being just, impartial, or fair b (1) : the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action (2) : conformity to this principle or ideal : RIGHTEOUSNESS c : the quality of conforming to law
- conformity to truth, fact, or reason : CORRECTNESS
My personal definition of "justice" as it's referred to in our Constitution, based upon extensive reading of the Founders and the other documents surrounding the development of our nation, is this:
Justice is the process of identifying a breach of one or more right(s) of an individual (or multiple individuals); determining how that breach occurred; determining who caused that breach, and why; and establishing the means for restitution, punishment, or reward to compensate for that breach, and to ensure no additional breaches occur.
The Declaration of Independence of the United States establishes that our founders considered rights to be unalienable, endowed upon us by our Creator. Rights, therefore, are all individual rights. There can be no such thing as a "collective" right, or a "group" right: all rights are unalienable and independent, stemming from a single source, and conveyed to each and every individual independently. Statutes and Laws are enacted to codify the requirements to protect and preserve these rights. The primary purpose of our Constitution is to secure the rights of the individual, through individual and collective action on the part of the government. Our Government has no rights - only individuals can have rights. A government is a manmade creation, and thus has no authority originating from our Creator. We, the people, collectively assign certain prerogatives, powers, duties and responsibilities to government to act on our behalf in protecting our rights as individuals. Any behavior by the government outside these realms is incompatible with our founding documents.
We have established a process if identifying a breach of one or more right(s) of an individual (or multiple individuals). It's called a Grand Jury. We assign people to investigate such a breach, and grant them certain powers. We provide these investigators, including police and legalists, with tools to determine who caused that breach, and why, and to put forth such evidence in a court setting, identifying the person accused of being responsible for the breach, and providing motive for such behavior. We have established a system of courts, in which the accused is challenged with the evidence of wrongdoing, and provide safeguards against wrongful judgment, including the right to a trial by a jury of one's peers, the right to subpoena witnesses and present evidence and testimony in one's defense, the right against self-incrimination, and the right to a speedy trial. Our legal system demands that those making accusations of criminal behavior (the violation of the rights of an individual or group) prove their case beyond a shadow of reasonable doubt. If the outcome of the trial is that yes, a certain person or group had indeed violated the rights of another, the court system has rules which allow it to impose certain actions that will result in restitution, punishment, or reward to compensate the victim for his or her loss, and to impose restrictions on the guilty party to prevent any future breaches of the rights of others.
The majority of our laws reflect this purpose. We refer to actions which deny or restrict one person's rights primarily as either criminal or civil infractions. Certain other laws establish the procedures by which the government exercises its just powers, performs its assigned duties, and administers its responsibilities to the people. These are referred to as administrative laws. There are many subgroups to each of these three broad categories. Regardless of the category of law, the primary purpose of the justice system is to preserve, protect, and promote the individual rights of the citizen, and to minimize any discordance between citizens in the free exercise of these rights.
This brings us back to the latest Supreme Court decision. The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision establishes an arbitrary limit on the imposition of punishment in a criminal case involving the most sacrosanct of all rights - the right to life. In making this decision, the court has placed a limit on the punishment of an individual based solely on age, without properly considering the cost to society and the potential for additional violence against the citizens of that society. This decision creates an imbalance in judicial judgment, and limits the power of the people to protect themselves from a potentially grave threat. It establishes a dangerous precedent that can seriously weaken the belief in equal justice. Such an arbitrary decision can only weaken the ability to impose or enforce self-restraint on those who refuse to conform to the rules of civilized behavior, and place the population as a whole at greater risk.