“We’ve got to nip it, nip it, nip it in the bud!” cries the valiant deputy of Mayberry, Barney Fife, arresting notorious jaywalkers and going always by the book, except when he’s on the telephone at the sheriff’s office, crooning “Juanita” to the girl at the diner. Barney doesn’t know it, but he’s stuck on the lex, the written law, forgetting that lex is supposed to be in the service of ius, what is just and right. And that’s what the sheriff Andy Taylor is all about. If grumpy old Ben twists his arm to lock some harmless lawbreaker in the clink, Andy will turn it into a celebration, with good food and drink and many friends, so that Ben himself will ultimately want to join in. Andy acts as a judge in more than a legalistic sense. He judges according to the whole of a situation and the persons involved. He doesn’t break the law, though he may bend it a very little. What he does is to see what the law serves, and to take direction from that, so that the people might rise up and cheer, “There is a judge in Mayberry!”
Now, I don’t mean that judges themselves should overstep their authority and make the law out to be what they desire. That’s a corruption. That’s close to tyranny. I mean only to note the difference between the terms. It’s not so hard to find the lex, the applicable law that the legislature has passed. It’s a lot harder to determine what is just. It requires human experience, a certain touch for the moral quandaries we find ourselves in, a feel for the proper order of a family, a school, a town, or even an individual human soul. You have to train to be a lawyer. But the sense of duty, of right and wrong, of making up for a bad deed, of adjusting things so that the weak need not be crushed by the strong, is inborn in us. You’ll see it at work in children.