>>, Perspectives, Philosophy>>It’s JUST a Sentence.

It’s JUST a Sentence.

Recently I noticed that the rich girl everyone loves to hate has a sentence.  Paris Hilton is going to jail.  Much of the talk revolves around whether her actions demand it.  An old quote states that “The law is what the judge says it is.”  So apparently he utilized his discretion in dispensing justice.  Now we come to the real question.  Justice.  Plato’s Republic talks about, John Rawls tries to define it.  But the question is, what is it? 


“Fairness. A state of affairs in which conduct or action is both fair and right, given the circumstances. In law, it more specifically refers to the paramount obligation to ensure that all persons are treated fairly. Litigants “seek justice” by asking for compensation for wrongs committed against them; to right the inequity such that, with the compensation, a wrong has been righted and the balance of “good” or “virtue” over “wrong” or “evil” has been corrected.” (Leanlegal.com, 2007)


Socrates defines justice as “working at that which he is naturally best suited,” and “to do one’s own business and not to be a busybody” (Bloom, 1991)


“Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as first it resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens.” (Bloom, 1991)

Here are three different principles to circumscribe justice.  The first mentions fairness and equality before the law.  The second is the Socratic definition of fulfilling your own personal role.  The final reminds us that Justice exists in the state in proportion to how it is found in its citizens. 

John Rawls uses a deontological, or reason based definition of justice.  He says that under a just system, “Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all.”  (Rawls, 1971)           The main ideas are that justice is equality before the law and of opportunity.  Where people differ is in their implementation of justice.  Utilitarianism like that of John Stuart Mill defined justice as the most good for the most number of people. 

Without thinking, this definition serves most people well.  A little thought though reminds the reader that this description naturally results in oppression like that of the Nazi’s of the Jews.  For example, enslave 1% of the population and the 99% lives better. 

So in general, a pragmatic definition of justice for our purposes is equality before the law that allows one to fulfill his or her own potential. 

Let us apply this situation to Paris’ case.  Did she receive equal treatment before the law?    


“FACT: On September 7, 2006, Paris Hilton was pulled over on a reckless driving charge and failed a field sobriety test. Like a responsible citizen aware that she had made a mistake, she pleaded no contest to the charge and was sentenced to 36 months probation and required to enroll in an alcohol education class.

FACT: On January 15,
Paris was pulled over again and informed that she was driving on a suspended license. Police let her off with a warning, but required that she sign a document acknowledging that she understood her license was suspended and she was not supposed to drive.

FACT! On February 27 at 11 pm,
Paris was pulled over again after authorities saw her car speeding with its headlights off. In her glove compartment, police found the document acknowledging she understood she wasn’t supposed to drive.

Paris had been required to enroll in that alcohol education program by February 12, but as of April 17, she still had not.

FACT!!! None of this is Paris’s fault.

So who is to blame if not Paris?

Well, for one, her publicist, Elliot Mintz, who had told her she could keep driving with her suspended license.” (Bestweekever.tv, 2007)

So, this individual got a DUI charge, drove on a suspended license, signed a written warning, and then did it again.  Furthermore she never registered for the alcohol education program required for alcohol related offenses. 

Being deeply familiar with driver’s license idiocy in California, I can honestly say that what Paris did usually results in the loss of license at the minimum.  Although it rarely results in jail time, it involves incredible hassles. 

Very simply though, for someone of Paris’s apparent wealth, the maximum fine has no deterrent effect.  Criminal justice seeks specific and general deterrence for this crime.  The system wants to deter Paris, specific, and any other person, general, from repeating this dangerous behavior of drunk driving. 

Her claim that the publicist made her do it is spurious and unimportant.  Her signature at the bottom of the warning states that SHE knows that what she is doing is wrong.  The question still remains though, is the sentence of jail just? 

The judge has significant leeway and obviously wishes this citizen to respect the law and the court.  Paris’s behavior shows little or no respect for custom or law in the Jurists opinion, so he sentenced her to 45 days as he is clearly allowed. 

When measuring equality before the law, it is vital that the convicted’s mitigating circumstances are assessed.  A single mother of two with one job and no money may not be able to pay a fine or serve jail time.  Law needs to be flexible while still fair. 

Is Paris free to be who and what she is?  Absolutely, this jail time allows her to see her role with respect to other individuals.  An average person could not afford the fines, the attorney’s fees, or the time off to attend court.  This alone teaches respect for the law to them. 

While for a rich heiress as such, deterrence is much more difficult to achieve.  The law taught me lessons like this when I was a youth.  My rights end where another’s begin.  This is the lesson the judge seeks to teach, to deter both her, and her young fans. 

The judge seeks to help Paris to instill the values a leader must.  This young woman has a great power, which requires great responsibility.  According to Plato, and others, society’s justness is only a reflection of its individuals. 

I go a step further to state that leaders have a responsibility to model behavior for those of lesser ability.  Paris leads many young people out there by virtue of their love of what they see as beauty and talent. 

This judge stayed within the law to prescribe a sentence that is not excessively onerous for a leader.  Ironically, governors need higher standards than the governed.  One action of theirs influences thousands, and even millions of others. 


Besweekever.tv (2007) “Paris Hilton: A Defense.”  Retrieved May 16, 2007, from http://www.bestweekever.tv/2007/05/07/paris-hilton-a-defense/ 

Bloom, Allan (1991). The Republic of Plato.  2nd ed. Basic Books: New York Leanlegal.com (2007). Justice. Retrieved May 16, 2007, from http://www.leanlegal.com/dictionary/jk.asp 

Rawls, John (1971). A Theory of Justice. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press: Cambridge

By | 2007-05-16T08:35:55+00:00 May 16th, 2007|Justice, Perspectives, Philosophy|3 Comments


  1. […] It?s JUST a Sentence. Like a responsible citizen aware that she had made a mistake, she pleaded no contest to the charge and was sentenced to 36 months probation and required to enroll in an alcohol education class. FACT: On January 15, … […]

  2. perfectparadox May 16, 2007 at 9:24 am - Reply

    Paris had been required to enroll in that alcohol education program by February 12, but as of April 17, she still had not.

    (Bestweekever.tv, 2007)

  3. Palm Springs Savant June 10, 2007 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    FACT: I have something funny to share: For a bit of Paris humor, I wrote a fun post on my blog about Paris Hilton…stop by and check it out:


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