Fall 2001, pg. 199. President's page: Ancient law defines future law, and future obligations.

Maine Bar Journal


Fall 2001, pg. 199.

President's page: Ancient law defines future law, and future obligations

Maine Bar JournalFall 2001President's page: Ancient law defines future law, and future obligations ELIZABETH SCHEFFEEIn a time of uncertain change, lawyers must build on a divine and noble inheritance as agents of civic stability and eternal law.I wrote my first president's page about change. Nine months ago, it seemed change, at least in those areas I mentioned (a new relationship between the bench and bar, and new initiatives within the bar) would be positive and relatively painless. Time has brought a new and deeper meaning to what change involves. The change facing us now is uncertain, and has not been nor will it be painless.

What do these changes mean for lawyers and the law? While I was envisioning an answer to this question, a line from Shakespeare came to mind: "The past is prologue." What lawyers and the law have been throughout history shapes our course in the future. If that is true, we are the beneficiaries of a divine and noble inheritance.

Our most ancient relatives were philosophers who thought and wrote about the order of society and the rule of law. Their influence caused Hammurabi to write the first known legal decision in 1850 b.c.; Justinian to develop the first unified compilation of civil law in 550 a.d.; and his contemporary, Solon, to organize the first democratic state by dismantling the Draconian (the only penalty was death) legal structure of Athens; and a natural blend of philosophy, law, religion to develop into the rise of ecclesiastical courts as the civilizing agent of the Middle Ages.

In the 1200s, Edward I developed the first courts of specific jurisdiction (financial, property, and criminal) and established barristers to argue "for" and "against" in legal disputes. The rich jurisprudence of England became the foundation for the American legal system...

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