From the President, 0221 GABJ, GSB Vol. 26, No. 4, Pg. 6

AuthorDAWN M. JONES, President State Bar of Georgia
PositionVol. 26 4 Pg. 6

From the President

No. Vol. 26 No. 4 Pg. 6

Georgia Bar Journal

February, 2021

DAWN M. JONES, President State Bar of Georgia

The Rule of Law:

Liberty and Justice for All

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the rule of law as “(t)he authority and influence of law in society, especially when viewed as a constraint on individual and institutional behavior; (hence) the principle whereby all members of a society (including those in government) are considered equally subject to publicly disclosed legal codes and processes.”

The rule of law provides the boundaries within which we all can legally act or behave. It offers consistency, reliability, fairness, equity and protections for every citizen. It protects those seeking to enjoy certain rights against those who attempt to violate laws or the rights of another. It is simultaneously the foundation upon which we build our laws and regulations and the umbrella under which we stand against those who would rain on our rights without fear of consequences, consequences equally and justly applied to all. The rule of law defines how individual citizens should conduct themselves and how society should conduct its business, to both promote and safeguard freedom.

As presented during the March 5, 2008, University of Georgia School of Law Sibley Lecture Series: “[The Rule of Law] is one of a cluster of ideals constitutive of modern political morality, the others being human rights, democracy, and perhaps also the principles of free market economy. Open any newspaper and you will see the Rule of Law cited and deployed-usually as a matter of reproach, occasionally as an affirmative aspiration, and almost always as a benchmark of political legitimacy.1

“The rule of law ... is not merely rule by law,” John Patrick writes in Understanding Democracy, A Hip Pocket Guide. “(R)ather, it demands equal justice for each person under the authority of a constitutional government. So, the rule of law exists in a democracy or any other kind of political system only when the following standards are met:

● laws are enforced equally and impartially

● no one is above the law, and everyone under the authority of the constitution is obligated equally to obey the law

● laws are made and enforced according to established procedures, not the rulers’ arbitrary will

● there is a common understanding among the people about the requirements of the law and the consequences of violating the law

● laws are not enacted or enforced retroactively

● laws are reasonable and enforceable.”

Patrick adds, “There is a traditional saying about the rule of law in government: ‘It is a government of laws and not o f men and women.’ When the rule of law prevails in a democracy, there is equal justice and ordered liberty in the lives of the people. In this case, there is an authentic constitutional democracy. When rule of law does not prevail, there is some form of despotism in which power is wielded arbitrarily by a single person or party.”

History is rich with examples of the rule of law being used to shore up the pillars of human rights and equal justice. On the global stage, according to Susan Xu Monday, writing for Immerse Education, the post-World War II Nuremberg Trials “marked a key point in the development of a specific international jurisprudence for war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression.” In South Africa, the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was critical to...

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