Archive for March, 2015

What is the Truth?

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Today is Palm Sunday.  I’ve been reading The Golden Legend for the last month or so and I’ve come to the section dealing with the Passion of Jesus (which is fitting since today is the day that the Passion Story is read out at mass).  In the text discussing the Passion, the author of The Golden Legend makes reference to a passage from the Gospel of Nicodemus.  The citation for the passage is not given, but it is found at Chapter 3, Verses 10 through 14:

10. Pilate said, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king: to this end I was born, and for this end came I into the world; and for this purpose I came, that I should bear witness to the truth; and every one who is of the truth, heareth my voice.

11. Pilate saith to him, What is truth?

12. Jesus said, Truth is from heaven.

13. Pilate said, Therefore truth is not on earth.

14. Jesus said to Pilate, Believe that truth is on earth among those, who when they have the power of judgment, are governed by truth, and form right judgment.

Wow, good luck to any judge.  If you get it right, then you’ve found the truth?  Well, not quite, because you could end up with the right judgment but got there by fluke or by reasons that may have little or no reason to deal with what was actually the truth.

If reading The Golden Legend and Christian texts which were deemed at the Council of Nicea to be unworthy of inclusion in The New Testament is “high brow” reading, then I can easily turn to “low brow” reading.  There is a well known legal dictionary entitled “Black’s Law Dictionary”.  As a spoof to this book, back in the mid-1980s a chap named Robert White wrote “White’s Law Dictionary”.  The definition of “Objection” was something along the lines of “what a lawyer says whenever the truth starts to enter into the courtroom.”

I was in examinations for discovery a little while ago and I questioned the other side first.  At the end of it, my client said to me about the other party’s evidence something along the lines of “what a complete and total pack of lies”.  It was then my client’s turn to be questioned and I had to smirk a little during the questioning because the party on the other side wrote a note to the lawyer and wrote it too big and didn’t hide the note, but all the note said was “LIES!!”.  I smirked for two reasons: (1) because it was clear that this examination was not going to result in the parties reaching a settlement sooner rather than later; and (2) because by giving the note to the lawyer, the client actually threw off the lawyer’s questioning a bit (which was to my client’s benefit / advantage) and all for a relatively useless comment.  But what is clear is that both sides genuinely believe that the other is not only not telling the truth but is going so far as to tell lies to hide the truth one way or the other.

I have often said to clients that if they want true justice, don’t ask it of our legal system – the only one who can give true justice is God and that all our human legal system can do is its best attempt to get a correct decision (but that if that were guaranteed to happen, there wouldn’t be a need for appeal courts).  In my client’s case that went to discoveries a little while ago, how do you determine the truth?  The simple answer is that, based solely on the testimony, you cannot.

So what does a judge look at?  The first, and probably easiest way, is to compare the stories given by each side and comparing it to the “objective” facts.  Person #1 says the sky was dark while Person #2 says it was clear blue sky.  Check the meteorological reports for that time and determine if it was clear skies or overcast skies – and whichever it is, then this lends support to one side or the other.  In some instances, the evidence cannot be confirmed by purely objective evidence but has to be viewed with a “reality check”.  To give a somewhat bizarre example, I was involved in a trial many years ago where a story was given of a woman who was alleged to have had sex with a gorilla.  Oddly enough, evidence was actually called at trial from someone who worked in the gorilla enclosure at the Toronto Zoo to show that it was physically impossible for the gorilla to have snuck out of the enclosure, scaled a large wall, crossed a big field, etc. to have sex with the woman.  But beyond that evidence was the “reality check” that if a wild gorilla was found in a room with an unknown human, chances are much more likely that the gorilla would have killed the person instead of having sex with her.

So how do you get a trial to determine the truth?  To be honest, you probably cannot definitively determine the truth in a trial.  The only one who will know what the actual truth is will be God.  So with that in mind, you should always think to yourself – if a problem arises, how am I going to be able to get my version of events to be believed?  The answer is to try to document your transactions and interactions as much as possible.  That way, if a dispute arises and the other side tries to suggest that the reality of the situation is something different, you may not be able to prove “the truth”, but you will be able to get a judge to believe that your version of events is consistent with the documentation from the time – and so your version is closer to the truth than the other side’s version.  You may not get to the truth, but you will increase your chances of getting a favourable judgment which, short of being in Heaven for the trial, is probably as close as you can ever get for sure.

Something to think about.