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The rule of law makes the front page

Lawyers are plentiful. And I like lawyers. I have relatives who are lawyers. We see lots of lawyers making news these days. Stories about alleged law-breaking appear on the front page or as the lead segment of TV news coverage. Bloggers freely debate with each other over what is legal, what can be done to enforce laws or other fuzzy questions.

  • Key search words like constitution, indictment, prosecutor, trial, jail, sentence, sue, etc., might take you to the big news stories of the day. Investigative features make headlines, a la DeLay’s legal problems. At the “Millions More” gathering in Washington, D.C. this weekend, Minister Farrakhan proposes that criminal charges be brought against the government for neglect of hurricane victims. He rightly looks to the law for redress.
  • Lawyers and judges make up the entire judicial arm of our constitutional system, which now stands at a very significant crossroads. Being female, I celebrate the growth in the number of women lawyers. Harriet Miers has been nominated to be a Supreme Court Justice. Many want her to be more than just a lawyer. I vote we let the confirmation process, the shared responsibility between Congress and President Bush, settle it. I trust the people’s representatives on the Senate Judiciary Committee to handle it adequately, and within the rule of law.
  • Our entire system of government stands upon the rule of law. Iraq is now attempting to establish its fledgling government based on their proposed new constitution and laws. Former dictator Saddam Hussein goes to trial in an Iraqi court this week. He will get his chance under Iraq’s emerging rule of law. We think we know the eventual outcome, but it will be interesting to see Iraq’s beginning system of justice at work.
  • Sidney Blumenthal, as covered by Common Dreams newsletter, writes about the Valerie Plame investigation. An independent counsel will report on what the next steps will be on October 28. Mr. Fitzgerald will soon have the opportunity to bolster my sometimes tenuous belief in the rule of law. We will see whether laws also apply to the most powerful..

Attorneys have a larger and larger hand in the decisions of the U.S. federal government, so it is right that they be under scrutiny. One might think that the Justice Department would be their primary base in the executive branch. But exceedingly large staffs of hair-splitting lawyers also serve in the White House, the Department of Defense, at State and in many other cabinet levels.

Lawyers abound in the legislative branch of government, as they should, because law is made there. But my sense of balance suggests that lawmakers from other disciplines are essential to good government. The 2008 elections will offer an opportunity for voters to make positive changes in that balance. (See my recent series of 5 blogposts on reforming elections.)

And finally, in recent decades the number of special interest lobby lawyers has also been too steadily increasing, but that is a subject for another day.


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