A more spiritual framework for justice

Overloaded courtrooms and excessive litigation costs rank high among the targets for legal reformers in the United States. But how do we take the burden off courts and still make sure disputes are fairly settled? As lawyer Richard Calkins examined this and related questions, he delved into a book that has some very basic things to say about disputes between people—the Bible. In this interview this former dean of Drake University Law School talks about where his study and prayer have led him—to the newly evolving profession of mediation.

Over the years I have always been proud to be a part of the finest legal system yet devised. It is one of the fairest and devotes much of its energies to protecting the poor, the downtrodden, and the minority. Yet I have seen a growing tendency toward belligerent advocacy, a win-at-all-costs mentality that serves neither our legal system nor the parties seeking to resolve their disputes. My concern led me to question my own conduct and motives and whether I was representing the legal system in a way that was in harmony with the teachings of Christ Jesus and Christian Science.

As a litigator, were you successful? By the system that exists, yes; I had some success. But I began to look more closely at some of Christ Jesus' comments about how to settle legal disputes. For instance, I noted these comments in the Sermon on the Mount: "And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also." Earlier in the same sermon, Jesus says, "Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison."

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Second Thought
January 13, 1992

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