Law and Justice Quotations logoIn the 12th of the 13 book series, A Series of Unfortunate Events, San Fransisco author Lemony Snicket (pen-name of Daniel Handler) describes a schism in which a group turns into good-doers and evil-doers.

Then, he teases us with his version of the creation of statutes; how they often issue from bickering and uncivil debates in, for example, a Parliament. The result is gorgeous, in principle, but the process ... not so much.

From that, in his award-winning prose, he describes the "High Court's" role in the application of the law or, as he correctly calls it, using a lawyer's word, the interpretation of the law. In some countries, such as the United States of America, lawyers call it interpretation of law. In other countries, lawyers call it construction of law. But don't be fooled: they mean the same thing. In both cases, as Snicket teases, it is often seen as a way judges use to avoid the word of the written law.

Thus, like the waiter (see below) who sees a K rather than an R, as originally intended, the interpretation of a law is subject to error.

The story has the three main characters, the Beaudelaire orphans (Violet, Klaus and Sunny), fighting for their inheritance from their evil former guardian, Count Olaf. In their quest for justice, they come face-to-face with Snicket's fanciful take on Lady Justice.

Snicket draws from a famous legal quote credited to a German known as Otto von Bismark and to the effect that "Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made."

At the end of the passage from The Penultimate Peril, the orphan-litigant Sunny exclaims "Scalia". The phrase must be lost on the children reading the series but not to American lawyers. Antonin Scalia, a native of New Jersey, born in 1936, is a well-known, tough United States Supreme Court judge, appointed in 1982. They are pictured together in the adjacent image.

From The Penultimate Peril:

"An old expression, used even before the schism, says that people should not see the creation of laws or sausages. This makes sense, as the creation of sausages involves taking various parts of different animals and shaping them until they are presentable at breakfast, and the creation of laws involves taking various parts of different ideas and shaping them until they are presentable at breakfast, and most people prefer to spend their breakfasts eating food and reading the newspaper without being exposed to creation of any sort whatsoever.

Scalia and Handler"The High Court, like most courts, was not involved in the creation of laws, but it was involved in the interpretation of laws, which is as perplexing and unfathomable as their creation, and like the interpretation of sausages is something that also should not be seen.

"If you were to put this book down, and travel to the pond that now reflects nothing but a few burnt scraps of wood and the empty skies, and if you were to find the hidden passageway that leads to the underwater catalog that has remained secret and safe for all these years, you could read an account of an interpretation of sausages that went horribly wrong and led to the destruction of a very important bathyscaphe, all because I mistakenly thought the sausages were arranged in the shape of a K when actually the waiter had been trying to make an R, and an account of an interpretation of the law that went horribly wrong, although it would hardly be worth the trip as that account is also contained in the remaining chapters of this book, but if you were at all sensible you would shield your eyes from such interpretations, as they are too dreadful to read.

"As Violet, Klaus, and Sunny caught a few winks ... arrangements were made for the trial, during which the three judges of the High Court would interpret the laws and decide on the nobility and treachery of Count Olaf and the Baudelaires, but the children were surprised to learn, when a sharp knock on the door awakened them, that they would not see this interpretation themselves.

"Here are your blindfolds," said one of the managers, opening the door and handing the children three pieces of black cloth. The Baudelaires suspected he was Ernest, as he hadn't bothered to say "Hello."

"Blindfolds?" Violet asked.

"Everyone wears blindfolds at a High Court trial," the manager replied, "except the judges, of course. Haven't you heard the expression justice is blind?"

"Yes," Klaus said, "but I always thought it meant that justice should be fair and unprejudiced."

"The verdict of the High Court was to take the expression literally," said the manager. "So everyone except the judges must cover their eyes before the trial can begin."

"Scalia," Sunny said. She meant something like, "It doesn't seem like the literal interpretation makes any sense," but her siblings did not think it was wise to translate.

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