A client sits in a lawyer's office and listens with a white face as the lawyer asks, "And how much justice can you afford?"

That's no joke. The rich and powerful always get a better deal in court than the weak and poor. Of course, morally the result should be the opposite. The rich and powerful, if guilty, have abused a higher position of trust and responsibility, and therefore committed a greater crime than the indigent; so they should be punished more severely, in order to set an example and end abuse. Fat chance.

Don't confuse justice with truth. The truth-seeker wants to consider all of the evidence; justice admits only that evidence that was legally obtained and is held to be relevant. Jurors are often carefully instructed as to what evidence to consider and what to forget. Of course forgetting evidence is sometimes hard to do.

Every case has two sides. The people have a right to have criminals convicted and sentenced, and the criminals have the right to a not guilty verdict if the evidence is insufficient or unreliable or illegal. Civil defendants have a right to be protected from harassment, while civil plaintiffs should be fully compensated for their injuries.

Justice delayed is justice denied. The rich and powerful engage in endless court proceedings in order to wear down the opposition. If a case is delayed long enough, the evidence will become stale and unverifiable. In the United States, courts are often hideously overburdened, and therefore judges pressure attorneys to avoid actual trials. As a result most criminal cases are bargained, and most civil cases are settled.

Should we abandon our system of justice? Absolutely not. But we must work to ensure that our laws are enforced uniformly and fairly for all our people. The substance of justice is also its process. We need fast and fair trials for all, and we must be willing to pay for that.