However we understand truth generally or in legal reasoning, the notion of justification can't be too far behind. Indeed, it's difficult to understand either concept without making essential reference to the other. I can justify a legal proposition only if I can provide evidence of its truth. Indeed, truth seems to be the conceptual bedrock of justification.
The conventional wisdom in law is that the goal of a trial goal is truth--what happened, who did it, with which mitigating factors, if any--while justification--consensus--whether unanimous or not--is all we ever really achieve. Arguably, juries provide us with justification or consensus, not truth itself. In appellate litigation, we seek the true meaning of the law and whether the lower court committed some mistake concerning the law's meaning or application. But all we ever get is a consensus of the appellate panel, whether en banc or ordinary. Consequently, in the American legal system, justification seems to trump truth. But without at least a kernel of truth, justification seems to be a rebarbative and futile concept.
No one has done more to disparage truth than the late Richard Rorty, a recovering analytic philosopher whose more healthy persona embraced pragmatism. Rorty insists that truth as a reflector of reality is meaningless. All we ever have are sentences that achieve some sort of consensus. Rorty often refers to this consensus as justification. For Rorty, "[w]e do not have any way to establish the truth of a belief or the rightness of an action except by reference to the justification we offer for thinking what we think or doing what we do. The philosophical distinction between justification and truth seems not to have any practical consequences." See WUT, below at 44-45. Is that right? Isn't truth necessary, conceptually necessary, to make sense of justification. Without the normative notion of correctness, of truth, justifications become empty. Or put differently, making sense of justification requires the notion that whatever is justified would be true absent such ordinary limiting conditions as complete knowledge, flawless reasoning, and so forth.
In Rorty's attempt to cut truth from its moorings in our conceptual scheme, the idea of justification seems to get jettisoned also. Yet, if Rorty prefers justification to truth he most certainly is throwing the baby (justification) out with the bath water (truth). In other words, we can't make sense of justification without appealing to some conception of truth. Perhaps, there is some way to throw both notions out yet retain a manner of speaking that is not egregiously relativist or subjective. But no one has yet provided such a vocabulary convincingly.
In the brief exchange between Rorty and the French analytic philosopher Pascal Engel, in What's the Use of Truth? [WUT] the tension between retaining justification while abandoning truth becomes prominent. Engel and Rorty, have a lively debate regarding these and other issues involving truth, justification, and the attractiveness of analytic philosophy. For those interested in these conceptual, epistemic, and historical issues, this book is highly recommended.