The Golden Rule of justice

The Golden Rule, at least in its usual formulation, would seem to be problematic in cases of justice. If a judge were to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, then they would probably never sentence anybody. A teacher couldn’t fail a student who tried very hard because, presumably, that teacher (at least as a student) would have preferred a barely passing grade if they had tried very hard. (Ask Philosophers)

My own problem is on a different count : it is not the compulsion to do unto others what you would have them do to you but merely a sneaking suspicion about the process by which I arrive at the truth, the verification of it to rule out the possibility of a possible ineptitude or human limitation in deciding the guilt. For example I am not a murderer and cannot be one by my nature and there is no chance of others deciding my guilt on this count but if I do murder despite my essential nature,I would not expect others to show a lenient approach to me .Consequently ,according to the golden rule,I would not show any leniency towards others in my judgement of others who have committed murder. But my problem is how do I reasonably make sure that the process by which we have arrived at the conviction does not suffer from an infirmity and consequently if I award ,in my capacity as a judge the extreme form of punishment ,say death ,am I not doing to others what I will not like others to do unto me?

In the golden rule it is assumed that the guilt is established and only the punishment is to be awarded and the judge should put himself in the guilty one’s shoes while awarding the judgement-a sort of empathy. But what if the guilt is not conclusively established or the process followed does not automatically establish the truth and if we do not take into account this infirmity a serious miscarriage may ensue?

In staff disciplinary cases I have followed the practice of awarding a punishment that does not cause irreversible harm to the guilty but leaves room for him to appeal and have the decision reversed at a later date by calling into question the procedures followed in the determination of guilt.


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