Too often the phrase “splitting the baby” is equated with justice. And sometimes the arbiters of justice in our modern world (judges) believe that giving something to both parties involved in a dispute is the wise and fair thing to do, after all, that’s the Wisdom of Solomon, isn’t it? Well, let’s see…
Two women having recently given birth came to King Solomon to settle an important dispute. One of the mothers had accidentally smothered her infant while sleeping, and silently replaced her dead child with the other. The mother of the living baby awoke, and realized the dead child was not hers.
They stood before the King, and argued a fairly typical “he said/she said” type situation that we see in courts today all the time. King Solomon asked for a sword, so he could cut the baby in half, and give part of the baby to each.
The real mother cried out not to cut the child in half, but to give it to the other woman. Solomon gave the baby to her, because he knew that would be the real mother’s reaction.
OK. So why is this used as an example of Solomon’s wisdom? Because he was really going to split the baby? Of course not.
The Wisdom of Solomon was in devising a plan that would reveal the truth.
Now, I’m not suggesting that judges in our modern world have the capacity to always reach the correct decision –or to use such strong arm tactics. What I’m asking of them, however, is that they make the best decision they can, with the facts and the applicable law, and stick to it.
Very often in the criminal law context, when a case is “he said/she said”, the law requires that a judge acquit a defendant because the State’s case has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. (It’s certainly not convicting the defendant, but “only” giving him probation, not jail – which I think some judges believe is splitting the baby.)
Giving something to both sides is not justice, nor is it following the Wisdom of Solomon.
[Post inspired by Dallas Sidebar’s use of Raphael’s famous painting which hangs in the Vatican. Good blog, and I recommend adding him to your RSS reader.]