In recent editions of the What's Up radio program, host Terry Lowry has explored the Biblical basis for the Constitutional civil justice system and for trial lawyers. Attorney Thomas Methvin of the Beasley Allen firm in Montgomery, Alabama published a comprehensive paper, Trial Lawyers And The Biblical Basis For What We Do, and he discussed it on the air on April 21. As Mr. Methvin said on the program, "From Deuteronomy to Psalms to Isaiah to Matthew, it emphasizes justice. We know God is a god of justice." The Bible speaks early and often about the duties to avoid committing negligence, paying damages for harm to property, and even paying punitive damages.
First, there is clear guidance in the Old Testament about the need for a civil justice system (quoting from the Methvin paper):
Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. (Exodus 23:6)
The Lord takes his place in court. He is the great prosecuting attorney, presenting his case against his people! The leaders and the princes will be the first to feel the Lord's judgment. (Isaiah 3:13-15)
Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)
And here are some clear examples of the Lord's direction to Moses on the need for the the people to pay restitution for damages to property (using the King James version):
And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein; The owner of the pit shall make it good, and give money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his. (Exodus 21:33-34)
If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man's field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution. (Exodus 22:5)
And here's my personal favorite:
For all manner of trespass, whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost thing, which another challengeth to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whom the judges shall condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbour. (Exodus 22:9)
Mr. Methvin's paper presents more details on the civil justice system established for the Israelites in the law of Moses. He also sets out a Biblical basis for the professional trial lawyer, for instance in Psalm 106:3, Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right. You can listen to Segment 1 of his interview and to Segment 2 here.
Terry Lowry also interviewed attorney Mary Alice McLarty, of McLarty Pope L.L.P. in Dallas, on April 25 on the subject, "Christians Are Called to Protect and Defend the Cause of the Weak and Fatherless." They discussed the Biblical phrases noted above and others, such as Psalm 82:2, How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. You can listen to Mary Alice's interview here.
The Founding Fathers, being learned men of great faith, knew these phrases and the recognition they had received in British law through the centuries, beginning most clearly in Article 39 of the Magna Carta, signed in 1215. The Founders reflected the teachings of their faith in human law through the creation of the federal judiciary and the Bill of Rights, including the 7th Amendment.
The "What's Up" radio program with Terry Lowry is aired on 12 stations in 10 states, thanks in part to sponsorship by the American Association for Justice, the largest association of trial lawyers in the world. The list of stations is at the end of this post.