No Man Ought To Judge His Own Case


Imagine that someone rammed into your car while you stopped at a stop sign. The person who hit you is completely at fault, but refuses to pay for the damages to your car. You take the person to court, only to find out that the person is the judge of the case. You state your case and the judge rules in favor of himself and finds himself not guilty. It should be no surprise that the judge would rule in favor of himself because he does not want to pay the damages. It is very unlikely that a person will make a decision against his or her own self-interest or benefit. If a person has the power to control the outcome to benefit him or herself, most likely he or she will use the power to do so. It is with this logic that the principle “no man ought to judge his own case” is applied to many court systems in the world.

We Want Fairness

This principle comes from a Latin phrase “Nemo judex in causa sua,” which means no man shall be the judge in his own courts. The phrase states that no person should decide a case where he or she has an interest in the outcome. It is natural if someone has a stake in the way a case is decided to base their decision on the outcome that they desire. Even if judges do not benefit directly from the outcome, if they have any ties or connections to the parties or to the outcome, they cannot be expected to fairly decide the case. Therefore, it is of extreme importance that the judges not have any ties to the case at all so that they can come to a decision that is fair and just.1 In addition, the principle relates to due process, which is a fundamental principle of fairness in all legal matters, both civil and criminal, especially in the courts. In order for due process to occur, people cannot experience any unfairness under the law, which includes getting a trial with an impartial judge to ensure justice.2

The system of checks and balances in our government incorporates this principle. For example, the legislative branch has the power to impeach members of the executive and judicial branches. It should be noted that there are exceptions to this principle such as the legislative branch handles the impeachment process of its own members. However, pressure from the judicial and executive branch to handle the trial as fair as possible as they would with members of a different branch would help reduce any bias from the legislative branch.3


The world has yet to see a perfect government that has no chance for corruption or tyranny. The best a society can do is to set up as many protections and try to guard against tyranny. Certain behaviors can be predicted, such as a person deciding an outcome in their favor in their own case and prevented. The separation of powers and structure of the government, although not entirely perfect, tries to prevent such actions from occurring. It is with this reason that the Constitution is amendable so that when problems arise, the government can be reformed and address those problems.

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