By Donna R. Gore, M.A.
Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis are authors of “Representing Justice.” According to a recent New York Times review, the book is a strange academic marriage of “interviews with contemporary artists and Supreme Court citations.” As a team, they have exhaustively covered the topic of the figure commonly known as “Lady Justice,” the famous blindfolded woman righteously holding a set of scales and sometimes other apparatus…
In ancient Egypt, she was known as “Maat,” Goddess of harmony and order depicted in the “Book of the Dead.” Her scales supposedly weighed a human heart against a feather, to “determine a soul’s fate in the afterlife.”
(Author’s note- How ironic a comparison that, the earthly and frequently unjust decisions regarding survivors of crime frequently could easily “knock one over with a feather” and seemly are totally clueless when it comes to the human heart….)
In ancient Greece, Lady Justice was known as “Themis,” aunt, wife and counselor to Zeus. (Author’s note- We assume that intermarriage was “just and good,” for, according to Greek Mythology, he was the God of the sky and weather and his image appeared on most Greek coins. The people of Greece worshipped this idol as their god. Zeus became one of the Seven Wonders of the World.)
Our omnipresent female figure was also known as “Justitia” – Latin for Lady Justice. LJ embodies a combination of divine order and rightness of law. These attributes include a set of scales, measuring the strength of a case’s support and opposition suspended from her left hand. Her right hand typically holds a double edge sword, thus symbolizing the power of reason and justice.
The Roman depiction of Lady Justice was sometimes portrayed as holding the fasces (i.e. a bundle of rods around an ax) symbolizing judicial authority….and a flame in the other hand, symbolizing truth.
Such descriptions remind this author of another “larger than life figure of American mythology- (i.e. Superman in his everlasting pursuit of Truth, Justice and the American Way…)
It is written that Lady Justice’s blindfold represents objectivity and impartiality. The blindfold itself began to appear in the 15th Century. Since that time, some sculptures have excluded it as redundant because Lady Justice herself acts as a human scale weighing competing claims in each hand. Others have said that her “maidenly form guarantees impartiality.” Still another explanation was that, according to ancient Greeks, her talent to foresee the future made a blindfold unnecessary.
Why all of this historical talk about Lady Justice? When I became a crime victim and eventual survivor of homicide, I was intrigued by these statues of power. They seemed to represent all I stood for or aspired to as a strong gay woman, overcoming so many obstacles over the years with disability and seeking justice for the murder of my father and subsequently a new career goal.
A specific depiction that spoke volumes to me, is the graphic of the Lady Justice statute featured in my last bog, (Voir Dire, Oh Dear!) in which Justitia is seated, holding the scales of justice in her left hand and gently wipes a tear from her cheek with her right hand. Compassion and strength- what a perfect marriage! This statuette is proudly displayed “center stage” in my living room for all to see!
Now, if you will, fast forward with me to the year 2006 or thereabouts. In the middle of our past decade, I was a big fan of the original
Court TV cable show with Nancy Grace, former prosecutor and homicide survivor.
(Author’s note- I would say that in recent years, unfortunately, she appears to have sold her integrity to sensationalism TV with Jerry Springer- like tactics as compared to her Court TV days.) If I am wrong, I will gladly stand corrected. I have not seen much of any daytime TV either Nancy or Oprah, as I am always working…. However, I think, in her heyday, Nancy was an untainted advocate representing all crime victims for a slice of justice.
In Connecticut, we are very fortunate to have the premier crime victim conference in the nation dedicated to the furtherance of education and the providing a platform for retaining the memories of those who have been murdered by violent crime. It is known as the Melanie I. Reiger Memorial Conference named after a young woman and aspiring social worker who was needlessly snuffed out of this life by a former boyfriend. Her parents honor her each year with this wonderful conference.
In 2006, Sam and Wanda Reiger had retained the services of Nancy Grace as keynote speaker in order to share her story as a homicide survivor and later as a highly successful prosecutor, in honor of her former fiancé. As it turns out, her keynote speech was very effective, touching, and powerful. Nancy told her story of a small town southern girl who had hopes of being an English teacher, whose world was turned upside down and forever changed with the murder of her fiancé.
Coincidentally, I had located the lovely and poignant “Crying Lady Justice” statuette and was contemplating its purchase before the conference. I was excited about the prospect of meeting Nancy Grace and hearing her story. And then the idea came to me…. Eureka! Why not purchase a second statuette for Nancy as a way of thanking her on behalf of all Connecticut crime victims. It seemed like another $70 to $100 was well worth the cause.
To me, it seemed to be perfect. Nancy was the epitome of Lady Justice after all. However, the best laid plans…. The conference agenda was set with no time to spare. So, I would have to do a personal hand off in the hall of the Department of Correction’s Auditorium.
(Not exactly how I pictured it).
Indeed, Nancy was surrounded by a flock of fans. In hindsight, I should have removed “LJ” from her box rather than explaining the reason for it. Nancy thanked me in a harried way and handed “the box” to her producer. I remember asking for a contact to follow-up, but none was given.
I have no idea where Nancy’s “master of justice, divine order and prophecy” is today. Is it on her coffee table at home, at her office or used as a conversation piece? Hopefully, it speaks to her as it does to me… Such was our close encounter survivor to survivor. I never received, nor did I expect a Hallmark card in return… but it would have been nice, to say the least!
I may try to contact Nancy in the future. If I do, she may just remember me as the “Connecticut based “Lady Justice.”
Should any Time’s Up blog readers/writers have interest in viewing one sample collection of these fine examples of judicial symbolism, click on: http://mdean.tripod.com/justice.html
There are many different versions of the image of the Goddess of Justice that can be found on the internet, after clicking on in the links below. To avoid pop-up ads, you may wish to open the links using the right button on your mouse and clicking on 'open new window’.
Indeed, justice is always a double edged sword!
Donna R. Gore, M. A.
Homicide Survivor in Connecticut
January 1, 2011