Establishing Justice in Both Fertile and Infertile Soil

The Preamble to The Constitution of the United States reads as follows:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form 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.

The first step taken by the Framers in seeking a more perfect Union was to “establish Justice.” Justice with a capital J. As noted by Andrew R. Sherriff in 1929, establishing Justice is “striving for an ideal beyond human power to attain in its perfection; the best we can do is to make every effort to approximate such a result, as nearly as may be humanly possible.” The Constitution establishes Justice in a number of ways, such as creating a system of checks and balances within our government and providing for a Supreme Court whose emphatic providence and duty is to “say what the law is.” The Fourteenth Amendment furthered this ideal by banning a States ability to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Growing and Establishing Justice

The idea that Justice needs to be established speaks to Justice not occurring naturally in the quantities we require. Justice needs to be grown, cultivated, and cared for. It needs to be pruned, protected, and nourished. Otherwise, we are left with weeds, poor yield, and sporadic occurrence.


Image by USDA on Flickr CC BY 2.0.

Today, the expensive and complicated nature of our country’s legal system is a barrier to Justice. Families and children are often hit hardest, especially when combined with other difficulties such as a disability or the presence of domestic violence. In fact as many as 3 out of 4 families deemed to be low income experience at least one legal problem during a three year span. Likewise, as noted by the National Center for State Courts, Veterans often return home to un-met legal needs, particularly regarding “family matters and consumer finance issues.”  

There is no constitutional limit as to where Justice is to be established. It is needed in both fertile and infertile soil. That is what a “more perfect union” is all about. Everywhere.

Awareness and Action

Returning to Mr. Sherriff, Justice is a concern of the now:

There was never a more propitious, nor necessity more pressing, for taking all requisite measures to establish justice, than now. Not pedantic discussion, but effective action, is the undeniable demand of today.

These words were written 88 years ago yet carry the same contemporary urgency. Understanding the discrepancies in accessing Justice is an important lens by which we can better view the media, our communities, and ourselves. We have been given a Constitutional mandate to “inculcate the conception of justice as a national ideal in the minds of all the people.” Establishing Justice is a “sacred and transcendent duty” requiring “adequate mechanism and becoming habiliments.” 

If that means dirt on our hands and sweat on our brows, so be it. 

Work Cited

Andrew R. Sherriff, To Establish Justice, 34 Com. L. League J. 613 (1929).

Anne Dannerbeck Janku, Poverty and Legal Problems: Examining Equal Access to Justice in Missouri, Trends in State Courts (2013) available at