Representing Justice: Invention, Controversy, and Rights in City-States and Democratic Courtrooms—a book by Professors Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis ’66
As part of the Yale Law Library Series in Legal History, Yale University Press has recently published Representing Justice: Invention, Controversy, and Rights in City-States and Democratic Courtrooms
by Yale Law School Professors Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis ’66. The
central question of Curtis and Resnik's book is the relationship
between courts and democracy. The authors explore the evolution of
adjudication into its modern form by mapping the remarkable run of the
political icon of Justice and by tracing the development of public
spaces dedicated to justice: courthouses.
Resnik and Curtis analyze how Renaissance “rites” of judgment
turned into democratic “rights,” requiring governments to protect
judicial independence and to provide open and public hearings. Courts
developed, alongside the press and the postal services, as mechanisms
for building the public sphere and for calling government to account.
During the twentieth century, all persons gained access to and rights
of fair treatment in courts – which can be seen not only through legal
provisions but also by looking at the building of national, regional,
and international courthouses around the world.
With more than 220 images, readers can see both the longevity of
aspirations for the Virtue Justice and the invention of courts.
Reproductions span the centuries from the scales of the Egyptian Maat
through St. Michael’s scales and sword to contemporary courthouse
architecture sometimes adorned with a Justice. The authors trace that
iconographical lineage from Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Raphael, and Peter
Paul Rubens to modern variations as well as the innovations of
Ellsworth Kelly, Jenny Holzer, and Tom Otterness in the United States
and of José Clemente Orozco and Rafael Cauduro in Mexico.
Today, however, private processes are replacing public ones, as
public and private sectors promote settlement, devolve decision-making
to agencies, and outsource judgments to arbitrators and mediators.
Often clad in glass to mark justice’s transparency, new courthouse
designs celebrate adjudication without reflecting on the problems of
access, injustice, opacity, and the complexity of rendering impartial
judgments. Thus, while venerable, courts are also vulnerable
institutions that ought (like the post and the press) not be taken for
granted. The argument is that the movement away from public
adjudication is a problem for democracies because adjudication has
important contributions to make to democracy.
In the spring of 2011 and in conjunction with Yale University Art
Gallery, Professors Resnik and Curtis will teach a class, Representing
Justice: Courts, Democracy, and Contestation. Materials from the Yale
Art Gallery will be displayed in its study galleries. In fall 2011,
students from that class will, working with Yale’s Rare Book Room
Librarian Mike Widener, guest-curate a display for that collection.
More images from and information about Representing Justice:
Visit the Lillian Goldman Law Library where you can find images from the book, depictions of Justitia from the Rare Book Collection, articles about the book, and a full course description.
Watch a slideshow featuring some of the related images of justice on display at the Yale Art Gallery
“From Fool’s Blindfold to the Veil of Ignorance
,” Yale Law Report
, Winter 2011.
“That Lady With the Scales Poses for Her Portraits
,” by Randy Kennedy, The New York Times
, December 15, 2010.