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Knowing law’s limits: Comments on “Forgiveness: Integral to close relationships and inimical to justice?”

Bradley, Kathryn Webb
June 4, 2015

Source: (2009) Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law. 16(2):322-333.

Professor Fincham is also correct that there is nothing in the nature
of either forgiveness or justice that makes one inimical to the other.3 The
experiences of restorative justice in the criminal context and of apology
in medical malpractice litigation make this clear. Both movements
demonstrate that it is fully possible for an individual who has suffered a
criminal or tortious wrong at the hand of another to experience both
justice and forgiveness.4 As Professor Fincham points out, and as the law
understands, forgiveness does not mean forsaking the right to
recompense.5 Thus, an individual convicted of assault is punished,
regardless of whether the victim has forgiven the offender, and a
physician whose care is negligent must compensate even a forgiving
The issue becomes more complicated, however, once we enter the
realm of family law, particularly when we focus on the law relating to
the dissolution of marriage. This complexity stems from the nature of the
relationships involved, the nature of the conduct at issue, and the stated
expectations of the judicial system. In looking at these issues, I hope to draw from the two areas in which I teach: family law and legal ethics.
Although the concepts addressed here can apply to all family members
involved in a divorce, including children, I will focus particular attention
on the spouses who are the actual parties to the divorce proceeding. (excerpt)


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