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‘Lady Justice’ reminder of equality for all

‘Lady Justice’ reminder of equality for all ‘Lady Justice’ reminder of equality for all

Let me say right upfront, I am not a lawyer nor, as the current joke goes, “I don’t even play one on TV.”

Lady JusticeIt is true that there have been several lawyers in our family but, believe me, they never brought their work home at night or discussed legal matters with me. Nor am I even an armchair legal scholar. But, since I was a kid, I remember seeing the statue of “Lady Justice.” You know, the blind-folded statue holding the scales of justice. I was told that it confirmed that, in our country, justice was administered fairly to all regardless of who you were.

What it has always meant to me is that if a person did what was honest and right, they could never be falsely accused or railroaded into being falsely condemned for something they hadn’t done. And, I understood that if you were one of the bad guys, eventually you would be caught and have to pay the price. It is what always comforted me as I returned home to the “good ole USA” after a trip to foreign countries, countries where folks told me of the persecution of minorities or privileges of the wealthy and well connected.

Recently, the news has warned that “Lady Justice’s” blindfold might just be ripped off her eyes as court decisions have been challenged by outsiders and pardons granted to overturn court decisions. This is some scary stuff.

We brag that our democracy is the oldest and best in the world. We claim that we are a country ruled by laws that apply to all. We have stated in all our official guidelines of governmental and personal behavior that we are a nation free from the control of people who might find favor or disagreement with others and give favors or punishment accordingly.

At question are the recent actions between this national administration and the Department of Justice.

Overturning court decisions and criticizing jurors just because a leader can does not mean that it is a positive thing to do.

In a dictatorship, a leader makes the rules and changes them when he or she finds it suits them. In a representative democracy, we the people — citizens — make the rules in an orderly manner. Yes, we do elect representatives to congress that vote for us. We don’t all go to Washington en masse. The election process is serious business as we are empowering those we elect to form laws if they are members of the legislative branch, enforce laws if they are of the judicial branch and carry out the laws if they of the administrative or executive branch.

This whole concept of getting in a situation where there is disagreement and “lawyering up” is worrisome to me. Professional attorneys battling for the soul of our country is not, in my mind, the best way to solve national issues. Often that results in the client with the largest bankroll outlasting an opponent in trial after trial.

I remember years ago, when a visitor from the country of Romania remarked that he was in awe of how smoothly our traffic system worked with signs and laws. In his country at the time, apparently, people just barged ahead trying to out-bluff others at stop signs. We do need a system of rules that tell us all what to expect and how to act in basic societal circumstances.

On the internet, I found six functions of laws in a country:

1. To keep peace.

2. To shape moral standards.

3. To promote social justice.

4. To facilitate orderly change.

5. To provide a basis for compromise.

6. To help facilitate a plan.

In 1620, when those first boats of immigrants from the old country ventured to a new land, it was because they did not want to live under a monarchy where one king decided what everyone else should do. Before they even got off the boat, they purposely made an agreement called the Mayflower Compact. It was basically a social contract in which the settlers consented to follow the community’s rules and regulations for the sake of order and survival.

Later, in 1787, the Constitution of the United States detailed that our homeland would be governed by a system that provided that all persons, institutions and entities would be accountable to laws that were publicly developed and equally enforced. To ensure that our democracy performed well, they developed three branches of government to watch over each other. We call this “checks and balances” of power.

In the Feb. 19 issue of the New Yorker, Jeffery Toobin, chief legal council for CNN, said, Our forefathers knew that “the point of authoritarianism is to concentrate power in the ruler so that the world knows that all actions, good and bad, harsh and generous come from a single source. Rulers can grant favors or exercise punishment.”

“That’s the real lesson — a story of creeping authoritarianism,” he continued.

The rule of law is central to our participatory democracy.

We need to weigh the words and records of all candidates for national, state and local offices, to see how they view the rule of law in their sought-after offices. Lady Justice has a sword in one hand signifying power, scales in the other denoting impartiality and a blindfold to assure fairness in judgment.