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It is the certainty that they possess the truth that makes men cruel.

[C’est la certitude qu’ils tiennent la vérité qui rend les hommes cruels.]

Anatole France (1844-1924) French poet, journalist, novelist, Nobel Laureate [pseud. of Jaques-Anatole-François Thibault]

Widely attributed (in French and English) to Anatole France, but not found in his works, including the one location it is sometimes cited from, Les Dieux Ont Soif [The Gods Are Thirsty, The Gods Are Athirst, The Gods Will Have Blood] (1912), in either English translation or, more importantly, in the original French.

While thematically keeping in the novel's depiction of the French Revolution and the Terror, the closest match to the quote I can find is this portion of ch. 22, talking about the expediting of the trials of those charged with counter-revolutionary crimes, eliminating the need to prove a misdeed by simply inquiring as to the accused's beliefs.

Justice thus abbreviated satisfied them; the pace was quickened, and no obstacles were left to fret them. They limited themselves to an inquiry into the opinions of the accused, not conceiving it possible that anyone could think differently from themselves except in pure perversity. Believing themselves the exclusive possessors of truth, wisdom, the quintessence of good, they attributed to their opponents noting but error and evil. They felt themselves all-powerful; they envisaged God.
[tr. Allinson (1913), Jackson (1921)]

Justice, thus curtailed, satisfied them; the pace was quickened and no obstacles were left to confuse them. They confined themselves to inquiring into the opinions of the accused, not conceiving it possible that anyone, except from pure perversity, could think differently from themselves. Believing themselves to possess a monopoly of truth, wisdom and goodness, they attributed to their opponents all error, stupidity and evil. They felt themselves omnipotent: their eyes had seen God.
[tr. Davies (1979)]

La justice abrégée les contentait. Rien, dans sa marche accélérée, ne les troublait plus. Ils s’enquéraient seulement des opinions des accusés, ne concevant pas qu’on pût sans méchanceté penser autrement qu’eux. Comme ils croyaient posséder la vérité, la sagesse, le souverain bien, ils attribuaient à leurs adversaires l’erreur et le mal. Ils se sentaient forts : ils voyaient Dieu.

Added on 9-Nov-23 | Last updated 9-Nov-23
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Dissents speak to a future age. It’s not simply to say, “My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.” But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that’s the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today but for tomorrow.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020) American lawyer and jurist, Supreme Court Justice (1993-2020)
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Malvina Harlan,” interview by Nina Totenberg, NPR (2002-05-02)

Speaking of Justice John Marshall Harlan and his lone dissent in Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3 (1883), where the Supreme Court struck down the Civil Rights Act of 1875. Ginsburg was being interviewed for her role in getting a long-lost memoir by Malvina Harlan, the Justice's wife, published as a book.
Added on 17-Oct-23 | Last updated 17-Oct-23
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At court, far from regarding ambition as a sin, people regard it as a virtue, or if it passes for a vice, then it is regarded as the vice of great souls, and the vices of great souls are preferred to the virtues of the simple and the small.

[A la cour, bien loin de faire un crime de l’ambition, on s’en fait une vertue; ou si elle y passe pour un vice, du reste on la regarde comme le vice des grandes âmes, et l’on aime mieux les vices des grandes âmes que les vertus des simples et des petits.]

Louis Bourdaloue
Louis Bourdaloue (1632-1704) French Jesuit priest, preacher
Quoted in Bernart Gorethuysen, The Bourgeois: Catholicism vs. Capitalism in Eighteenth-Century France (1927) [tr. Ilford (1968)]
Added on 29-Nov-22 | Last updated 29-Nov-22
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But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal — there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court. It can be in the Supreme Court of the United States or the humblest J.P. court in the land, or this honorable court which you serve. Our courts have their faults, as does any human institution, but in this country our courts are the great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal.

Harper Lee (1926-2016) American writer [Nellie Harper Lee]
To Kill a Mockingbird, ch. 20 (1960)
Added on 8-Feb-17 | Last updated 8-Feb-17
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Be brief, be pointed, let your matter stand
Lucid in order, solid and at hand;
Spend not your words on trifles but condense;
Strike with the mass of thought, not drops of sense;
Press to close with vigor, once begun,
And leave, (how hard the task!) leave off, when done.

Joseph Story (1779-1845) American lawyer, jurist, Supreme Court Justice (1811-1845)
“Advice to a Young Lawyer”, The American Jurist and Law Magazine, Vol. 5 (1831)
Added on 13-Feb-14 | Last updated 13-Feb-14
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I used to say that, as Solicitor General, I made three arguments in every case. First came the one I had planned — as I thought, logical, coherent, complete. Second was the one actually presented — interrupted, incoherent, disjointed, disappointing. The third was the utterly devastating argument that I thought of after going to bed that night.

Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954) US Supreme Court Justice (1941-54), lawyer, jurist, politician
“Advocacy Before the Supreme Court,” Morrison Lecture, California State Bar (23 Aug 1951)

Reprinted in the Cornell Law Quarterly (Fall 1951). Legal citation "Advocacy Before the Supreme Court," 37 A.B.A.J. 801, 803 (1951).
Added on 5-May-08 | Last updated 13-Mar-23
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