Search This Blog

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Just a tip

Dear all,

in a book written by prof. Marco Ruotolo (Dignità e carcere, Napoli, 2011), I've found a little quotation that let me think about what we have said about the "Law as empathy" strand, even if it refers especially to cinema, and I would like to share it with you:

Il cinema "favorendo il pieno uso della nostra soggettività mediante la proiezione e l'identificazione, fa sì che simpatizziamo e comprendiamo coloro che ci sarebbero estranei o antipatici nella vita di tutti i giorni. Chi ha ripugnanza per il vagabondo incontrato per strada, al cinema simpatizza di tutto cuore con il vagabondo Charlot. Mentre nella vita quotidiana siamo quasi indifferenti alle miserie fisiche e morali, nel leggere un romanzo o nel vedere un film proviamo compassione o commierazione" (da: E. Morin, I sette saperi necessari all'educazione del futuro, Milano, 1999 (2001), 106).


  1. That's really interesting. In fact, considering the great influence of novels and movies, we can see how people often sympathize with defendants in court cases, and many times even with criminals. A lot of biographical books and movies have helped make these people sympathetic to the public, as recently with the story of Vallanzasca an Italian robber and murderer, or as may happen with the story of Amanda Knox told in a book and in a movie. I believe that emotion plays a crucial role in these events, and perhaps the lawyer Franco Coppi is right when he says that emotion is bad prompter and we should be like a cold analyst to the laboratory table!
    Carlo Alberto Norzi

  2. I think differently from Carlo. It's true that we have to(if we're lawyers) approach to cases in a objective way, but if you want to do this you must know very well the world around the case. If a case concerns a tramp, you have to know his life, his problematics. And if you want to do this, literature could help you. In general i think that a good lawyer MUST be a man of culture, without culture you can't be really objective. The "problematic" of empathy is a false problem, because if you're a man of culture, you know very well, for example, both Vallanzasca's story and Borsellino's story. In this way it's impossible have a preference for Vallanzasca or for persons of this kind. To conlude i think that Law and Humanities should be an obligatory course for who wants to be a good lawyer.

  3. I completely agree with you about the approach that lawyers must have to cases, in fact I was talking about the influence on public opinion in general. I think that empathy is not a false problem. Taking for true the fact that not all people are informed and not everyone has a big culture, it's often sufficient that a book or a movie gives them some tears or a smile, and at the end they could say "ok, maybe he went wrong in his life but he was basically a very good person". That's the influence I was talking about.

  4. I think you are both right but I prefer Lorenzo when he writes that L&H should be a compulsory course :-) Well, I am joking, but your debate is very serious because it refers to the very essence of the work of a lawyer. To what extend should a lawyer be objective? What does it mean to be objective? Is it possible for the judge to be simply "la bouche de la loi" as Montesquieu suggested? In the UK judges are usually barristers, or sometimes solicitors, with many years of distinguished service behind them. That means that they have a lot of exerience with reference both to law and to life. In Italy, if you prove to know the law very well and you win the public competition you can be a very young judge. I think that being a cultivated person has something to do with the fact of having a knowledge of life. Both are important for a person called to judge the behaviour of people and to have a strong influence on their life. What do you think?

    1. Dear all! I think that the solution is simple and both logical. Man is a complex being; law must be' complex too because aims at regulating human relationships. But by nature law can t cover each single case of life because is general and abstract; so it lets what can t regulate to' the discretion of the judge: the judge has to judge with his discretion but within the limits of the law. Is only within these limits that matters the culture and the sensibility of his person: is only with a large comprehension of the complex human vicissitudes that he can come to' a decision the most impartial possible.
      As regards the lawyer, he has to convince the judge and so in the same limits has to' be acculturized and sensitive to' other people's problems too.

  5. I think that law is necessary to men, for men and their social relations. The codified law is the result of years of human experiences, history and events it contains in itself emotions translated into certain rules
    I believe it is essential to build our consciences to interpret and understand the law.I think that to interpret and understand the law we have to base on our coscience too and so the connection between L&H is essential!I believe that experiences count a lot in life in general as in law!

  6. I totally agree with dr. Gialdroni. In particoular, if we're thinking to our system, the L&H approach is fondamental. I want to make just one important example: the 3rd article of our Constitution overcomes the old idea of equality, the formal one, and introduces the substantial one. This article imposes(obviously it's my opinion) the L&H approach. Don Milani said that "there isn't nothing more unjust than making equal parts between unequals", and i think that this is one of the most important implications of one of the most important articles in our Constitution. It's impossible to completely respect this article and its implications if you haven't the L&H approach. The 3rd article requests a large culture, that overcomes the law’s studies, and that gives you a knowledge of life(as Gialdroni says)

  7. Hi everybody, I was very fascinated with the whole "law and empathy"
    topic, although I don't share that kind of view at all. I believe that
    what we should focus on is not whether lawyers, judges and lawmakers
    should be aware of their clients' and addressees personal background:
    I think that the main issue we should consider in establishing our
    approach to the law is "equity", as Lorenzo already mentioned. It is a matter of fact that equity is
    what the law should and -most of the times- does pursue, however I have an opposite opinion to Lorenzo's. Empathy cannot be the way to achieve substantial equality, because it implies a personal way of feeling and relating to situations, and one
    simply cannot "feel"equally about anybody and anything. Excessive formality may be
    the unforgivable fault of our system, but ours is also
    a depply human - humanistic, to say it in literary terms - system,
    that originates from centuries of human experience and is extremely
    resilient to the influence of the always changing trends and fashions
    through time. being the latter the very risk of the kind of system wished
    for by the authors of the "law as empathy" strand, I believe that
    conceiving the law with a sympathetic view would only cause great
    confusion and injustice, especially in our civil law system, which
    does certainly not lack of equality issues. Maybe, and I'm not even
    sure about that, it would fit better into the kind of legal system
    rooted in common law states, where justice is more sensitive to the
    individual perspective. Anyway, I agree with you on the fact that
    lawyers should read books and be cultivated, but that is just because
    knowing the world we live in allows us to relate better to people and,
    consequently, do our job better. But I think that has little to do
    with empathy, and does not concern lawyers and lawmakers in any
    particular way.

  8. This quotation about law as empathy makes me think about an interesting american movement: the Victim's Rights Movement. In order to garantee psychological and social support to victims of violent crimes and to their families, part of the members of this movement claimed victims (or their families) partecipation as witnesses in the sentencing phase of trial, so that they could testify in front of the jury what kind of emotive and affective sufferings they had to face as consequences of crimes.The Supreme Court rejected this request in Booth v. Maryland (1989), which was a murder case, asserting that it would be cruel and unusual (in contrast with the 8th Amendament) to let juries hear about how a murder affected the victim's family and to let them empathize with them, because they would condemn to death a person while they were influenced by emotional and irrational reasons. The Court said juries must be guided to decide between life or death based on the defendant's character, his background, and the circumstances of the murder he committed. As violent crimes increased in 1980s, many states passed laws allowing juries to hear victim impact evidence during the sentencing phase of death penalty cases. Few years later, the Supreme Court decided in Payne v. Tennessee case (1991) that the jury was allowed to hear evidence about how a mother's murder affected her son, who was with her and injured himself while his mother was killed. The Supreme Court said that because the boy was one of the victims, it did not violate the Eighth Amendment to tell the jury how the crime affected his life. In my own opinion, it could be very dangerous to allow jury to empathize with victim's family, and the risk is to encourage vendictivness feelings and to promote an idea of justice as vengeanse. I think that impartiality is unavoidable necessary to take a judicial decision (expecially in american murder cases in which juries must decide whether to condemn to death a person!)

  9. In my opinion, should make a distinction between the role of lawyers and the judges. The lawyers can not be objective because they have to defend the position of their clients, unlike the judges having to apply the law to the concrete case must maintain a position of objectivity and impartiality. The first to convince the judge will use in addition to the law, the 'public opinion and cultural baggage that we were talking about. The second, the judges will not be influenced by lawyers and by 'public opinion, but will only apply the law and if in doubt seek help from the interpretations of the supreme courts. So I think it is necessary that this horrible habit of the press and television programs to deal in a morbid cases should end. In conclusion I believe that literature and culture should be used by both but in different ways. From 'attorney to confirm the position of his client and the judge, to the extent permitted by law, for example when deciding on an equitable basis, to make its decisions closest to the' social needs. Unlike enabling judges to act in a subjective manner by being too influenced by the cultural baggage would involve a risk to legal certainty.

  10. I was really interested in Lavinia's distinction between the role of lawyers and judges. This subject made me think about a really interesting book I recently read, "il mite giacobino", by Alessandro Galante Garrone. He was an important historian and judge, and can be considered one of the "founding fathers" of the Italian Republic. In his autobiography, written with the contribution of the jurist Paolo Borgna, he puts together some very significant thoughts about the first half century of the Republic. The second part of the book, entitled "Another Italy", offers a vivid insight of the Italian society between 1950 and 1970, heavily characterized by a backward and short-sighted mentality. My attention was particoularly captured by the account of the judge Troisi's case: he received a disciplinary sanction for his book "Diary of a judge", considered strongly offensive to the prestige of the magistracy. It simply contained a criticism against the judge's role at the time. I would like to quote some poignant words of Galante Garrone about this case, which I think may offer us an opportunity to reflect on the function of the judge within our legal system:
    "nonostante tutto, nonostante l'aura di conformismo allora spirante, neanche io immaginavo si potesse arrivare a tanto.(..)Era tutto quel libro, meno che un oltraggio ai giudici. Esprimeva la crisi di coscienza di un giovane magistrato scontento di sè, che sente l'angoscia di un fare giustizia ridotto a mestiere. Ma non c'era soltanto il dramma morale. In quelle pagine era dipinta -con mirabile vivacità di scrittore- la povera umanità che, in quegli anni, si affollava nelle aule di giustizia; e il contrasto tra quel mondo di secolari sofferenze, di miseria, di abiezione, e le strettoie inesorabili della forza pubblica, di uno Stato vissuto come qualcosa di estraneo: un ingranaggio remoto ed incomprensibile, spesso nemico. E infatti il libro suscitò un serio dibattito e molte recensioni che ne lodavano, unanimemente, la "rara potenza dello stile", come scrisse Calamandrei, e il valore morale. La Civiltà Cattolica ne riconobbe "il senso grave, quasi religioso". Fino a quando un deputato denunciò al Ministro della giustizia il Diario, "ma esiste al Ministero un ufficio di lettura, un ufficio che comunque segua l'attività -diremo così- letteraria dei magistrati?" (..)
    L'Alta magistratura allora, era questa. Esprimeva un atteggiamento serio, ma se scavavi un pò capivi che questi giudici erano ancorati ad angusti concetti di decoro, di professionalità, di mentalità arretrata, piuttosto lontani dallo spirito della Costituzione. E avvertivi ogni giorno il contrasto tra quest'ambiente e la spinta che già in quegli anni, anche nel costume della gente, proveniva da un cambiamento dell'Italia. L'indipendenza della magistratura si era trasformata in separatezza. (..)Una società non la si può giudicare soltanto in base alle leggi e ai regimi esistenti, ma anche e soprattutto in base al costume, alla moralità, alle idee correnti e all'avvicendarsi dell'una all'altra generazione. Ovviamente, la giurisprudenza rifletteva l'angustia di questi confini culturali. (..)

  11. Non mi è mai piaciuto il magistrato che si impiccia di politica. Questo ovviamente non significa impedire al magistrato di avere ed esprimere opinioni, prendendo anche posizione sul modo con cui gli altri magistrati interpretano le leggi, sulle riforme da adottare, sulle storture di norme, tradizioni, istituzioni antiquate. In proposito ho più volte richiamato quanto scriveva Kant. Al funzionario, al militare, al prete, a chiunque sia inserito in un particolare meccanismo statale o confessionale, deve essere riconosciuto il diritto di "fare pubblicamente uso del proprio intelletto". Come membro "della umanità civile" egli ha una illimitata libertà di servirsi della sua ragione, di parlare in persona propria, di fare le sue proposte per un migliore ordinamento dello Stato o della Chiesa a cui appartiene. E' anche questo un modo di combattere i pregiudizi antichi e nuovi che lo circondano, di vincere la pigrizia e la viltà di chi si rassegna alle cose come stanno. Lo stesso deve valere per il magistrato. Il quale, come cittadino, può -vorrei dire, deve- occuparsi dei problemi politici dei cittadini, non può chiudersi in una torre d'avorio. Ma, a mio parere, nell'espressione delle proprie opinioni egli deve avere, nelle forme, un self control particolare. Mi appare sempre più vera la massima secondo cui il giudice non solo deve ESSERE ma deve anche APPARIRE indipendente. Il che comporta che al giudice dovrebbe essere vietata l'appartenenza a partiti o ad associazioni come la massoneria o altre simili che abbiano un carattere di parzialità sociale o religiosa. Ma significa anche che, nei suoi legittimi interventi esterni, il giudice deve evitare qualunque atteggiamento che lo faccia apparire legato ad una piuttosto che a un'altra parte, o che possa far sorgere, nella persona che da quel magistrato si trova a dover essere giudicata, l'impressione seppur erronea, di una pregiudiziale tendenza alla simpatia o all'antipatia. (..)
    Nessuno più di me ha diffidenza verso i giudici che, strumentalizzando la loro funzione, si dedicano alla piccola politica, si schierano per questa o quella parte. Ma troppe volte ho sentito, nell'accusa ai magistrati di "fare politica", un sentimento di insofferenza verso il giudice che, semplicemente compie il suo dovere fino in fondo, con l'unica scelta politica di essere fedele alla Costituzione. Perchè a volte non basta, per un giudice, essere onesto e professionalmente preparato. E in certe situazioni storiche, per poter ricercare ed affermare la verità, con onestà intellettuale, bisogna essere COMBATTIVI e CORAGGIOSI."