Judicial System in a Disrupted and Distorted Democracy

James Enzor, "The Good Judges", 1896
James Enzor, “Jurists”, 1896

We feel respect and even awe when we think about judges sitting in their robust robes above the appellants to the court and the audience. We often forget that even the American Supreme Court Justices are just as human beings as anybody else and as such are under the Law of anthropological imperfection. In their decision-making they can behave even worse than the average person (the juridical robe psychologically intervenes between human ability for self-reflection and the truth of the unconscious complexes hidden behind our ideas and opinions – the pompous robes psychologically function as a shell covering our real motivations from being recognized by our own intelligence). If Democracy is loosing its progressive democratic direction on inclusiveness and care about the people, the spirit of disinterestedness and individualism of personal dedication to truth – “jurists” can behave even more prejudicially than people without the red, black, white or blue robes. James Ensor grasped very well the psychological and intellectual limitations of judges operating in a fake and quake democracy, and their sometimes disastrous megalomania and indifference towards life and human beings.

In Enzor’s painting the judges in orange-red robes even look like today’s conservative five of the American Supreme Court. In the center, with a giant head and a hole in his forehead (mark of a performed lobotomy?) is John Roberts – he is not looking at anything, he is the solemn carrier of judicial gaze. His is the shining of justice itself (the supreme justice is shining through him). He doesn’t see: he doesn’t need to. His occupation is to represent the very glory of the Judicial Branch of Government. On his left is Antony Kennedy beaming with the aura of belonging to the highest body of juridical wisdom. To John Roberts’ right is Samuel Alito impersonating the smile of general positivity of conservative judgment, its generic good emotional posture towards life and common folks. To the right from Alito we have Scalia deep in syllogistic calculations meant to cover-up his partisan intuition. To the left from Kennedy is Clarence Thomas, not “in thoughts” like Scalia, but listening to hear less (he covers his one ear from the noise of life to feel easier at making his easily predictable decisions).

But let’s return to the historical Enzor and describe the characters of his painting on their own merits, without “external” analogies. Let’s start with the second row – with the jurists standing behind the sitting “justices”. Who are they? – Justices’ assistants, their referents, their “staff”? Or are they future justices who are learning how to “justice” – how to process life according to the norms of judicial functionality? From left to right – we see a dogmatic (with a big red nose) for whom the letter of Law is like a desired beverage is for an alcoholic. Next is the juridical authoritarian personifying the pedagogic – social function of Law (he looks as severe as a grumpy boarding school teacher). The third judge is trying too hard to be on the level of the complicated nature of Law (his face is ready to burst like a bubble). The fourth (right behind the Chief Justice like the back of his chair) is the jurist who identifies with the very majesty of Law (like the seat with buttocks). The next puts his life on line not to make any technical mistake – that would be the end of him (his face has already burst, and what we see instead is a post-human juridical homunculus). And the last one looks as if he is dedicated to justice by any price, he is, probably, a specialist in phrenology and is dreaming of getting at the ultimate truth about human beings by analyzing the forms of skulls.

Five judges, from left to right are: the one who is all intellectual concentration, the one who impersonates the enigmatic ambivalence of the benevolence of the Law, the one who penetrates life from above (may be the hole in his forehead is not a hole at all but a mighty beam screening life for hidden information?), the next is impenetrably positive and unshakably kind but untouchably aloof (on the side of law of Law, not law of life), and the fifth one is dedicated to the facts and acts.

Judges’ facial expressions are archetypal – they are grimaces for meeting crimeces eye to eye, they are the inceptions for meeting the deceptions: there is a certain finality in them, a certain unmovable, frozen quality, and some saluteness of absoluteness. Judicial faces are masks – Enzor’s judges are not just dolls, they are dolls with masks on their doll faces (double dolls). Their separation from life and their megalomaniacal identification with the superiority of Law over life, the metaphysical quality of their settlement above life is responsible for the reduced quality of their thinking and feeling. They are soft like pillows under the hardened cardboard of their faces. Their silly sole souls are dressed in pillow-cases in front of which life stops and dies.

Everybody knows that the victim of crime can be really innocent, but in Enzor’s painting the behavioral similarity between victim and perpetrator is very troubling. It looks that the lawyer of the defendant argues “self-defense“, that the victim was the attacker. There is statistical support to the idea of the victim as a participant in criminal act. In a predatory society (where people are suppose to fight for themselves, like American National Rifle Association supported by the recent Supreme Court decision, dreams about) cooperation mechanisms are triumphantly outweighed by competition mechanisms, so it’s not surprising if we see here more cases when the victim is a participant in crime (in most obvious and primitive sense of being directly co-criminal) than in a more cooperative society.

The picture of Christ crucifixion on the wall behind the Justices (as it is cinematically cut by Enzor as the picture of Christ’s nailed feet) looks like a warning to the criminals that they will not be able to “run away” from the Law and will be caught and nailed by Justice. It is not in the spirit of traditional representation of Crucifixion which focuses on compassion and tragedy. The spider-web on the universal symbol of juridical justice is, for Enzor, the measure of quantity of bureaucrats of the kind we see in this painting who “survive” on the prestige of the juridical institution in today’s society and people’s ordinary fear.