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This is a two part paper;

First Part:
Theories of Justice
Discuss the notions of justice according to Plato, Aristotle, and John Rawls. Be sure to discuss the following: how Plato views justice in the context of the soul; how Aristotle sought a moderate path; and John Rawls “difference principle” and how that is tied to a notion of justice as fairness. Which of these theories is the most helpful? Which should
form the basis of a legal system? Explain your answer and discuss with your classmates.

Second Part:

Having read Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, consider the reasoning behind his visit to Birmingham. Discuss three injustices found in the letter and compare them to the Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Begin by reading Chapter 9: “Justice”, in Understanding Jurisprudence.

Then, on the United Nations website, read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Preamble.

Source: Universal Declaration of Human Rights Preamble. Retrieved from http://www.hrcr.org/docs/universal_decl.html.

Finally read Martin Luther King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail”.

Source: King, M.L. Letter From Birmingham Jail. Retrieved from http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/-resources/article/annotated_letter_from_birmingham/.


One of the hallmarks of our search for justice is objectivity. When you ask a judge to render an opinion, there is the dichotomy between the professional and interpretive approach and the judge’s experiences and personal values. It is the battle you see between what is called “activist judges” and judges who engage in strict construction.

The activist judge, for example, might be seeking to do justice even if the letter of the law would require the accused to go to jail. As you read about Aristotle, he sought a dual approach. Distributive justice rates decisions on the basis of the merit of the individual. One might suggest that this is the distinction between contracts and torts. If one uses corrective justice, one would say that it really does not matter if a person is good or bad if they have defrauded someone; the same approach would be for adultery. The law would look at the injury to effect justice.

As for the correction (commutative), the judge has a duty to equalize matters through the remedy or the penalty. The wrongdoer suffers for doing the wrong, hence the two parts of justice according to Aristotle. The judge effects justice not only by looking at the wrong done by the wrongdoer and holding him or her liable, but also by balancing the wrong both in terms of the wrongdoer and the victim and has power to effectively do what may be defined as justice.

One flaw in the Aristotle approach is that, according to Greek law at the time, even criminal law was the subject of redress through compensation and was not something under the control of the state.

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