Equal Justice

Equal Justice Under Law

These words appear in relief on the facade of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. Yet, when the Constitution took effect in 1789, it did not "secure the blessings of liberty" to all people. The expansion of rights and liberties has been achieved over time, as people once excluded from the protections of the Constitution asserted their rights set forth in the Declaration of Independence. These Americans have fostered movements resulting in laws, Supreme Court decisions, and constitutional amendments that have narrowed the gap between the ideal and the reality of American freedom.*

Today we continue as pilgrims on the road to equal justice under law. While we may perceive that the law is fundamentally about justice, it is not always so. In our struggle to study and understand the law, we also struggle to understand the impact of the law on persons -- those who are citizens, those who find themselves on our shores and those yet to be born. While law schools contribute to the debate about what may constitute "justice" -- the principal that justice should be equal, that is fair, impartial and accessible -- remains an elusive goal.

Access to our courts is itself dependent upon laws regarding jurisdiction and the right to be heard. Often the poorest and most vulnerable in our society have been the least able to access our courts and system of justice. While indigent criminal defendants have been accorded a right to counsel to help preserve their fundamental right to life and liberty, no similar right has been established for poor civil litigants who face challenges to their fundamental right to property. As a Jesuit institution, Marquette Law School is committed to help our society advance toward the ideal of equal justice for all.

One example of Marquette Law School's commitment to the ideal of equal justice under law, can be seen in its sponsorship of the first Wisconsin Equal Justice Conference hosted by the Law School at Marquette University in March of 2007. This conference included participants from the judiciary, the bar, the philanthropic community and public service law firms and agencies, focused on improving access to civil justice by all persons in Wisconsin. You can listen to conference participants at our web site. During the conference, the State Bar of Wisconsin's Access to Justice study committee released a new report detailing gaps in the legal services delivery system and suggesting points of reform. You can read a summary of that report in the Wisconsin Lawyer. Marquette Law School continues its commitment to equal justice under law through its courses, clinical and pro bono opportunities and research and as contemplatives in action, Marquette lawyers are leading the way.

* Text from the United States Archives' website