The Golden Rule

“Do unto other as you would have them do unto you.” Throughout human existence, this maxim has provided the bases for a system of civility and justice.  While most major religions and antiquity provide examples of this concept, Americans are most familiar with Scripture. “Therefore all things whatsoever would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12, see alsoLuke 6:31).
The idea is simple; the implications are much more complex.  People should treat other the way that they would wish to be treated.  The inverse is likewise correct; do not treat others in a way that you do not want to be treated.

The Golden Rule and the Justice System

The American Civil justice system adopts this philosophy by providing a system where if someone treats another wrongly, they must make up for the wrong through compensation. The Civil Justice System, unlike the criminal system, tries to make the victim whole, as compared to the criminal system, where the criminals are punished through incarceration.

Despite the fact that the œgolden rule is engrained in our society, the Court system limits the use of this concept in both civil and criminal cases.  Throughout the country, Courts have ruled that:

“Human beings are unreliable judges of their own affairs; that it is expecting too much of a man to weigh his own case fairly and impartially, since most humans want their own cases to be decided in their favor.  It follows, therefore, to advise jurors to decide a case as they would want it decided if they or their loved ones were the litigants is to establish a false standard for the basis of judgments.”

Danner v. Mid State Paving Co., 173 So.2d 608, 611 (Miss. 1965).

Mississippi Courts have taken this even further in stating that, œthe only legitimate purpose of the [closing] argument of counsel in a jury case is to assist the jurors in evaluating the evidence and in understanding the law and in applying it to the facts.  The Court further stated that œappeals to passion or prejudice are improper and should not be allowed. Shell Oil Co. v. Pou, 204 So.2d 155, 157 (Miss. 1967).

This puts the lawyer in the difficult position of seeking justice without directly addressing the moral compass from which justice flows.  However, Courts have provided some guidelines and limitations on these prohibitions.

For example, in the case of Woods v. Burns, 797 So.2d 331, Miss. 2001, the Mississippi Court of Appeals held that it was not improper for the injured person’s lawyer to argue that:  œ[t]his is the only time that this company will be forced to do what it ought to have done to begin with without us coming to court.  The Court stated that, œwe cannot find that allowing [the statement] was error, much less reversible error. Id. at 334.

The Golden Rule In Practice

The reality is that all jurors bring their life experiences including a deeply ingrained value system with them to Court.  Competent and proficient personal injury trial lawyers can properly tap into jurors natural motivations in helping the jury see justice in the case.

In fighting for our clients, we must follow the Rules including the Rules as to what is allowed and what is prohibited. While the line between them is sometimes a fine one, having an accident injury lawyer who understands and can apply both the law and the Rules gives you the injured person the best opportunity for a favorable outcome.

January 8, 2013 | Categories: Legal Tips |