Spring 2009 - #8. Letter to the Editor.


Vermont Bar Journal


Spring 2009 - #8.

Letter to the Editor


Letter to the Editor

March 25, 2009 To the Editor:

At the VBA Mid-Year Meeting, the panelists at the professionalism seminar posed to those in attendance roughly the following question: "What is the Rule of Law, and why do judges and lawyers have a professional responsibility to educate the public about its importance?"

Many of the attendees' answers focused on the role of the judiciary, and while this perspective is certainly correct, and understandable given the fact that those in attendance were judges and lawyers, the analysis is, in my view, incomplete. As we engage the public in the issue, I suggest that we communicate a broader view.

An effective system grounded in the rule of law must be strong and independent across all three branches of government. Such a system starts with laws enacted by a democratically elected legislative branch which is reasonably free from inappropriate influences. I say reasonably free because even in a thoroughly democratic system, the elective and legislative processes are susceptible to the influences of wealth and other non-democratic manifestations of power.

An effective system grounded in the rule of law must also have an executive branch which is committed to the impartial and uniform enactment, administration and enforcement of the society's laws. Equally important for the executive branch is that its administrative rulemaking processes be transparent, that it maximize the public's opportunity to provide input, and that its work product be reflective of legislative intent.

And certainly, the judicial system of a society that is grounded in the rule of law must be fair and impartial. Subject to reasonable exemptions from execution, court judgments must be readily enforceable. Furthermore, subject to reasonable and limited countervailing interests in maintaining privacy, such as the rights of juvenile offenders and victims of sensitive crimes, the court process must be open to the public. Such openness promotes accountability in the judicial system, and illustrates for the public the importance of the rule of law to democracy, civil society, and the protection of human rights.

Any system grounded in the rule of law must be...

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