Lady Justice Through the Ages

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Minnesota got some good press today in an article in the New York Times about the depiction of Lady Justice in art throughout history and the ages. The article is about two Yale Law School professors who have written a book, Representing Justice, “an academic treatise on threats to the modern judiciary that doubles as an obsessive’s tour of Western art through the lens of the law.”

The professors have studied the evolution of Lady Justice. The image that is common today of her blindfolded, apparently blind to those against those she must judge, is a recent development as blindfolds once had extremely negative connotations of impartiality and deception.

The Minnesota connections are a picture of the Lucy van Pelt statue that once adorned the lawn of William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, as well as a description of one of the most unusual memorials to justice: in a courthouse in Grand Marais, Minnesota, the court had framed the battered corduroy jacket that James A. Sommerness, a public defender who had worked in the court for more than 20 years defending the rights of those accused of crimes, had always worn while arguing cases, a humble monument to the grand ideal of public justice for everyone.

Certainly not as iconic nor as graceful as a statute of Lady Justice, holding her scales and standing proud, but more touching since it shows the true impact on justice.


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