Judge Luciana Breggia, President of the second section of the Tribunal of Florence, offers an insight into her illustrated book ‘Il Giudice alla Rovescia (The Ingenious Judge)’ which seeks to teach children about the foundations of justice, as well as essential skills in resolving conflict.
After a long journey, a judge arrives in a village where the inhabitants quarrel with each other all the time and they invite him to remain in order to help them in solving their disputes.
The judge decides to stay and starts to analyse many problems without offering foreseeable solutions: his unusual point of view will reverse stereotypes and old schemes and it will help the inhabitants to find solutions which can make everyone happy. In the end, the judge leaves, because justice has now become a common heritage of the small village.
This is a story to educate kids on legality, to stimulate their ability to always interrogate their conscience, also before the law, enhancing the need for understanding another person’s point of view and exploring forms of mild justice.
The circumstances of the story are similar to one particular situation I witnessed as a judge in Florence. Two of my neighbours were quarrelling about a leech tree that annoyed one of them because of the leaves falling on the roof of the house and the roots that, he claimed, pushed against his wall.
Inspired by this case, the story began, along with the suggestion offered by the judge in Pinocchio, who imprisoned the puppet exactly because he was innocent. That paradox was also useful when used in another way: to overturn stereotypes and old patterns in the honest but difficult search of justice.
Overcoming negative stereotypes
In this story, therefore, the judge in Pinocchio is a positive judge, who overturns the patterns not to deny justice to the innocent, but on the contrary to reveal justice with a different, more lenient side
The case of the girl who steals a string of sausages just because she has been hungry for many days is a difficult and exemplary one.
This is not a strange invention, but it is an event that often happens. The judge in the story leads the villagers to understand the girl’s reasons and convinces the villagers to help her, and welcome her into the community of the town.
The judge therefore finds a solution that does not separate, but recreates the bonds of community and solidarity. He reveals how diversity is a richness and not an obstacle.
Making sense of justice
The Case of the Colours, set in a classroom, aims to introduce children firstly to the difficulty of deciding who is wrong and who is right, because the criterion is not always as simple as it seems.
Finally, the Case of the Brothers who bicker over a strip of land is the archetype of the most common dispute, one that acts as a screen to various deeper conflicts, which are connected with feelings and hidden or removed resentments. As the judge says, it is a complicated case, because in reality it is not about the land at all. It is a complicated case because it is about the two brothers, their family and their childhood: in short, as the judge says, “It is a complicated case just as life is complicated.”
Written by Luciana Breggia.
Luciana Breggia worked at a law firm in Milan, before becoming a judge in 1985. Currently President of the second section of the Tribunal of Florence, author of numerous legal essays and articles, she is particularly committed to the topic of conflict resolution processes. She took part in the Governmental Study Commission charged with drafting a reform of ADR instruments, presided over by Prof. Guido Alpa. She writes essays about mediation for the ‘Treccani-Il libro dell’anno del diritto’ (The Year Law book) published every year by the Italian encyclopedia Institute. On February 2017, she founded the association ‘Il giudice alla rovescia’, inspired by the homonymous book written by her in 2015.