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Saturday, August 30, 2003


Baha'i speaker: Justice system can do better

Jim Slothower has worked as an attorney for almost 30 years and he has a great appreciation for the United States' criminal justice system.

"It's the best system we have right now," Slothower, 58, said in a phone interview Wednesday from his office in Bend.

Slothower believes there is still room for improvement, however, and in a lecture next week in Albany, he will discuss the legal system from his perspective as an attorney and as a follower of the Baha'i faith.

Slothower was a member of the U.S. Air Force's security service from 1963 to 1967. He then earned a bachelor's degree at Portland State University and in 1974 received his law degree from the Indiana University School of Law. He worked in private practice in Colorado from 1974 to 1977, focusing primarily on criminal defense.

In 1977, he moved his practice to Bend. He has served as a part-time prosecutor for the city of Bend and as a part-time municipal judge in Bend and Redmond. He is a board member for numerous non-profit organizations such as the Bend Little League, the Bend Area Habitat for Humanity, the Deschutes County Library and the Human Dignity Coalition.

Since 1996, he has been a member of the local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Bend.

"One of the primary beliefs of the Baha'i faith is the oneness of the human family. The justice system is one way to advance that goal," Slothower said. "In Baha'i teaching, the purpose of justice is the establishment of order in the world and it is an instrument for promoting unity and fellowship among its peoples."

In order for the justice system to fill this role, it must live up to the ideal of human equality. Inequities in the system impede the progress of unity that Baha'is believe represents humanity's future.

Inequality and injustice are also unfortunate facts of life, even in America, Slothower said.

"A lot depends on a person's ability to pay," Slothower said. "Justice, to some extent, is dependent upon how much money one has."

Slothower said his lecture will focus on three key insights into justice that are found in Baha'i teaching. It begins at the individual level, as every person is called upon to determine right and wrong within their own conscience, not blindly following what others say.

Second, Baha'i teaching focuses on the actual results of the justice system. In other words, does it live up to its own ideals?

"For this system to work, you must act in a manner that is consistent with the thoughts of justice. The evidence of justice is in acts, not just words," Slothower said.

Finally, there is the focus on unity as demonstrated by the equal application of the law.

"This means treating everyone equally; eliminating all forms of discrimination," Slothower said.

Slothower said that in today's court system, one often comes away from a criminal proceeding with the feeling that one side has "won" and the other has "lost." This result may or may not have anything to do with the deeper question of whether justice was truly accomplished.

Slothower believes that one day, he doesn't know when, humanity will reach a place where justice is truly done.

©Copyright 2003, Albany Democrat-Herald (OR, USA)

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