Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Money or Justice?

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing criticized attorney Geoffrey Fieger for wanting "MONEY not JUSTICE" as it relates to Fieger's representation of the family of Aiyana Stanley-Jones.  I reported this story last weekend and there is current coverage at, but I want to go back to Mayor Bing's criticism which I alluded to in my original post.

Mayor Bing seems like a fine and honorable gentleman.  A former NBA all star and a local hero, Bing is trying to provide life support for a dying lunch bucket town. Detroit has been dying for a long, long time--twenty-five years ago I remember visiting Detroit and being shocked that the local convenience store in what seemed like a nice neighborhood was essentially encased in Plexiglas for security reasons.  This was at the time that the Renaissance Tower was newly open, providing some architectural excitement. 

But like Baltimore, Cleveland, Buffalo, well . . . you name the town, money and jobs moved to the water-challenged enviros.  Thugs in and out of government and law enforcement create an atmosphere of chaos and existentialism in these old line American cities.  Personally, I've not felt less optimistic about where these cities are at since the 1970s, I'm sure the economy has a lot to do with this subjective reaction. 

I am way off subject--I wanted to talk about Mayor Bing's observation that Geoffrey Fieger is taking advantage of a tragic situation to "get money."  No doubt.  And no doubt that it will take a lot of money to pay for the gross negligence of the Detroit police operation that resulted int eh killing of this sleeping 7 year old baby girl.  Since the beginning of recorded Judeo-Christian (Torah, Old Testament, Talmud, New Testament) civilization money is the measure of civil justice.  Perhaps Mayor Bing can think of some alternative to money?  Any ideas? 

Years ago I was involved in a news conference in a large American city near Detroit relating to the filing of civil lawsuits against an old line diocese, a reporter asked me what I would say in response to the charge that these clergy sex abuse lawsuits were "all about money?"  Impolitic per usual, I said, of course the lawsuits were about money, civil lawsuits can only measure "justice" in terms of monetary awards, civil lawsuits exist to allow a civil society to continue.  When there is no justice, when there is no reasonable hope for justice, there is no peace.  This morning as I write this post, news is coming across the web of the killing of 3 Chinese judges by a deranged Chinese citizen.  China which has no effective civil system of remedies is suffering a spate of these bizarre and insane mass killings mostly of innocent children which I would argue are causally-related to a system of a rule of law.

"Money or justice?" is a false dichotomy, in the civil law system, money is justice.  I am relatively certain, Mayor Bing that the family of Aiyana Stanley-Jones would rather have Aiyana Stanley-Jones instead of money.  I know that the adult survivors of rape, incest and clergy sex abuse would rather have had their innocence, their families and their faith instead of money. 


  1. Yes, it's not a coincidence that "make them pay" is the expression we use in these contexts. Even the Anglo-Saxons (of Beowulf's day) had the notion of "wergild" or "man-money." And hierarchies of payment, too--depending on how "valuable" people were thought to be to the society. The ability to use monetary substitutes for acts of violence (say, killing the offender's family in retaliation) is indeed a mark of civilization. But it only seems "civilized"--ie, not crass--when we remember that alternative.
    Personally, though, I think Fieger just likes to be on TV.

  2. In OurTown there are several immigrant communities where "honor killings" are not unheard of--I wonder how many of these killings in the past have been mischaracterized as "accidental" or otherwise not the homicides that they were?

    Yeah, Fieger never shies away from the limelight, he definitely knows how to raise the hackles! As I said in my post about his disciplinary issues in Michigan--in any other state it's unlikely he would still have a license based on some egregious misconduct.