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“Justice delayed is justice denied . . . but not forever.”

Posted on | May 29, 2024 | Comments Off on “Justice delayed is justice denied . . . but not forever.”

Mike Magee

The date was March 16, 1868. The speaker was a British statesman and former Prime Minister, William Evert Gladstone. In a dispute that day, during vigorous debate in Parliament, Gladstone, in response to supportive cheers from colleagues said , “But above all, if we be just men, we shall go forward in the name of truth and right, and bear this in mind, that when the case is ripe and the hour has come, justice delayed is justice denied.”

These words ring loud and clear this week for millions of Americans, as they await a verdict in the criminal trial of Donald Trump in New York. Whatever one’s political persuasion, most agree that the presiding judge, Juan Merchan, has been highly competent and efficient in orchestrating the historic trial and avoiding over-reacting to Trump’s labeling the judge “corrupt” and “conflicted.”

Judge Merchant has been a Justice of the New York Supreme Court since 2009. An experienced and balanced jurist, he has earned the respect of defense attorneys like New York lawyer Ron Kuby who described him as “a serious jurist, smart and even tempered…a no-nonsense judge…always in control of the courtroom.”

Contrast this with the evaluations of Judge Aileen M. Cannon who recently issued a “curious order” indefinitely delaying a date for Tump’s classified document case after holding seven public hearings during the past 10 months. Her performance has caused legal analyst Alan Feuer, who has covered criminal justice for the New York Times since 1999, to comment, “The portrait that has emerged so far is that of an industrious but inexperienced and often insecure judge whose reluctance to rule decisively even on minor matters has permitted one of the country’s most important criminal cases to become bogged down in a logjam of unresolved issues.”

Needless to say, the contrast between the two judges is stark. The only thing they seem to have in common is that both were born in Columbia. Personalities and loyalties aside, each will forever be tied to Trump, and their ability to deliver or delay justice. This is because the majority view of Americans is that “fairness” and the “rule of law”  require “timely and efficient justice systems.”

What friends of Judge Cannon must consider is whether “justice delayed or disrupted on one dimension may still find its resolution in another.” That is to say, her actions one way or another, have consequences, and could send the Trump narrative down any number of alleys that place the former President (and his family members) in even greater jeopardy. Witness for example the life journey of O.J. Simpson following his acquittal for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson. Or Harvey Weinstein, freed on a technicality, only to be retrialed as more of his victims surface.

Purposeful delays in justice can boomerang on defendants. For example, the former President succeeded in stonewalling release of his tax returns for over a decade. But time ran out in 2024 when the IRS announced that he had “claimed massive financial losses twice” (in 2008 and 2012) and owed the government over $100 million. And that was just on a single holding – a Chicago skyscraper. Then there was the 2023 battery and defamation conviction for the 1990’s rape of E. Jean Carroll. The $5 million dollar judgement against him took nearly three decades to snare him in justice’s web. And in that same year, New York attorney general Letitia James convinced Justice Arthur Engoron that the Trump Organization was guilty of massive real estate fraud, and effectively revoked the license to operate New York based properties.

What we as a society are currently witnessing is that timely resolutions are central to maintaining “public trust.” People must move on with their lives, and can only do so if social order and public confidence in justice is maintained. Trump’s success with a strategy of delay seems to be waning. The current trials remind us that continuous improvement will always be the order of the day for our legal system. Access, efficiency, equity, and timely justice for all. 

And should he somehow wiggle his way out of the current downtown New York holding cell, he and his protectors will soon enough learn that “Justice delayed is justice denied . . . but not forever.”


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