Adversarial System of Justice: Definition & Advantages

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  • 0:03 The Adversarial System…
  • 1:36 The Inquisitorial…
  • 2:03 Advantages of the…
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Benjamin Truitt

I have worked in higher education since 2008 when I began teaching in remedial ed and teach classes in Humanities, Philosophy, and Sociology. I have a Bachelors Degree from the University of Colorado at Denver in Philosophy with a minor in Theater and a Masters Degree in Humanities.

The adversarial system of justice works to resolve cases in court by pitting partial advocates for each side against one another with a judge who works to ensure that the rules of court and law are followed. Learn more about it in this lesson.

The Adversarial System of Justice

If you go down to a car dealership to pick out a used car, you probably don't want to make your decision based on the advice of the car salesman. You would want to have someone who has your interests in mind help you choose a car and negotiate the price. You would not just want someone who told you whether everything the salesman said was true but someone who actively looked to see if any relevant information was not told to you. This kind of partial fact-finding is at the core of the adversarial system of justice.The adversarial system of justice is defined by its use of interested opposing parties debating over an issue in order to ensure the pursuit of justice. This theory of justice has been criticized for its value of winning over truth, but it is a system that looks to protect the rights of individuals on trial.

The adversarial system of justice establishes that each side in a court proceeding should endeavor to win the proceeding within the limits of the law and rules of the court. This means that the plaintiff should work and present the best argument and best evidence that the defendant is guilty, and the defendant should work to present the best argument and evidence that it is unreasonable to find them guilty. The debate between prosecution and defense unfolds in the presence of a judge, who acts as a moderator of the proceedings and makes sure each side follows the rules, and a jury, who listens to both cases and then renders a verdict.

The Inquisitorial System of Justice

On the other hand, the inquisitorial system of justice is the opposite, where the judge serves as the active fact-finder, and the officers of the court work in their capacities to help determine the truth of the charges made rather than take sides. This system is often touted as a better alternative to the adversarial system of justice, as it emphasizes impartiality and truth-seeking over the value of winning in a court setting.

Advantages of the Adversarial System

The advantages of the adversarial system are that it protects the rights of individuals and the presumption of innocence, serves to protect citizens from potential abuses of government, and works to check bias in the courtroom setting. Opponents of the adversarial system of justice promote an inquisitorial system of justice, which advocates active judges who engage in fact-finding missions with the lawyers serving in discovery of the truth.

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