Julia Lindpaintner
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MFA Thesis

A blog documenting my journey creating a Master's thesis towards an MFA from the School of Visual Arts' Products of Design program.

What I mean when I talk about justice

Today I begin the process of creating an ontology for my thesis. I think this ongoing task may be one of the most helpful things in distilling what I'm doing and why I think it matters.

Choices I've made to date

The most significant choice I've made to date was in the writing of my subtitle for the thesis defense, "Transforming the Judicial System through Civic Engagement." By implying that the work I was showing all related to 'civic engagement,' I characterized it in a number of ways. Civic engagement is complying with government-sanctioned/-enforced duties, volunteering, and taking to the streets. While this framing has helped me move forward, I think it probably deserves a second look.

Terms I can define now

There are many 

procedural justice — is the idea that the fairness of the process is critical to the perceived fairness of the overall system. Therefore, making sure that individuals perceive the court process as fair is integral to the trust the general public has in the justice system. 

jury nullification — is the provision that allows juries to acquit individuals even if they think they are guilty, if they don't believe the law is just. It is a protection for the people against governments tyrannically enforcing unjust laws.

indictment — is the decision made by a grand jury that allows the court to press charges against an individual. An individual accused of a felony must be indicted before he/she can be tried.

plea bargain — a common practice by which the prosecution and the defense make a deal: the defendant will plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. 

grand jury — a form of jury duty in which jurors listen to multiple cases during their term, and determine whether the prosecution (which, in criminal cases, is a lawyer from the district attorney's office) has shown sufficient evidence that there is reason to believe the crime might have been committed by the accused. Grand juries issue indictments (see above).

trial jury — also known as petit jury, this is a form of jury duty in which jurors listen to the details of one case that is on trial, deliberate, and determine whether the prosecution has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual on trial is guilty of the crime with which they are charged. 

co-creation — when people are able to participate in the making of their experience

psychological safety — a condition in which people feel comfortable taking interpersonal risks (such as asking for help, admitting failure/ignorance, etc) and do not feel the need to suppress any aspect of their identity.

Terms I need to clarify

There are a number of words that I have used imprecisely or interchangeably. I want to get clear about which I should use when. I would like to have my book sound somewhat journalistic, like a piece of investigative reporting, interspersed with narrative reflections. Most important here is the distinction between justice "the ideal" versus justice "the system," and which one I am principally interested in addressing.

Here are just some more terms I need to sharpen:

judicial system vs. justice system

criminal justice vs. civil justice
common law / case law
statutory law / civil law

verdict vs. decision vs. sentence
attorney vs. lawyer
prosecutor vs. district attorney
public defender vs. court-appointed lawyer
jury nullification
case closed vs. case dismissed vs. charges dropped

alternative justice — principle or program?
procedural justice — principle or product?
restorative justice — philosophy or program?
community justice — philosophy or place?

Julia LindpaintnerComment