The Rule of Law - Implemented by Men and Women

We are all familiar with the phrase, the rule of law.  We tend to think of those words more in connection with the judiciary than the other two branches of government.  However, the concept of the rule of law has a long heritage in the United States.  Founding Father John Adams articulated the concept when he famously called a republic “a government of laws, not of men.”  John Adams’ cousin and fellow Founding Father, Samuel Adams, observed that the rule of law means that “There shall be one rule of justice for rich and poor, for the favorite in court, and the countryman at the plough.” Today, the Administrative Office of the United States Courts lists the rule of law as “a principle under which all persons, institutions, and entities are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced, independently adjudicated, and consistent with international human rights principles.”  In short, the rule of law reflects the founders’ desire to create a system committed to promoting the fair and impartial application of the law.  All segments of our society claim allegiance to this noble principle, yet the application of the rule of law looks different across the branches of government.



The Judiciary is Enriched by the Inclusion of Women

Since 1987, March has been recognized as National Woman’s History Month, so it is fitting that we acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of women to our country’s judiciary this month. From the four women serving as Associate Justices of the United States Supreme Court to the women serving on the lower federal courts and as justices or judges of state courts, the nation has much for which to be thankful. 



Black History is Inextricably Intertwined With American Legal History

February is Black History Month.  In previous years, we have honored Black History Month by highlighting important African American legal figures, many of whom were the first in their respective positions.  However, this year, we will use cases to point out some of the ways African American history is inextricably intertwined with American legal history.  This small sample of Supreme Court cases demonstrates the ebb and flow of American legal sentiment towards its Black constituency.



The Federal Courts Remain Steadfast in the Midst of Societal and Technological Change

Chief Justice John Roberts recently issued his 2023 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary. In his report he discussed ways the federal judiciary has adapted to ever changing technology and is using modern technology. Chief Justice Roberts began his report by stating “the arrival of new technology can dramatically change work and life for the better.” He then discussed how the rural electrification program dramatically improved lives. He goes on to discuss how the legal profession and the judiciary moved from the quill pen to typewriters and then to personal computers. 



Judges: Beholden to The Constitution and Accountable to The People

“WE THE PEOPLE.” The first three words of the United States Constitution are “We the People.” These three words are also the most important words in the entire document. For it is “the people” who “ordain[ed] and establish[ed]” the Constitution and by so doing created the government of the United States. With the words “We the People,” the Constitution recognizes that the ultimate political authority and power in the nation is “the People.”



When May a Judge Decide a Case Without a Jury?

One of the keystones of the American judicial system is the jury.  The jury represents the people in the judicial process, deciding factual questions of liability in civil cases and guilt or innocence in criminal cases.  In this way, juries provide a critical limit on the power of federal judges, who do not have to stand for election and have life tenure to protect their independence from outside pressure.  The jury’s essential role in our government is embodied in the Constitution and mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. 



The Constitution And Federal Courts Protect Minority Rights

Immediately after the Framers in Philadelphia had drafted the Constitution, Benjamin Franklin is quoted as responding to the question, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” with the answer, “A republic, if you can keep it.”



Labor Day 2023: The Federal Courts' Role in Labor's Progress

Labor Day this year falls on September 4. On June 28, 1894, President Glover Cleveland signed into law the bill designating the first Monday of each September as Labor Day. This national holiday honors the achievements and societal contributions of ordinary workers. Although Labor Day has become synonymous with parades, cookouts, picnics, relaxation, and the end of summer, it is also a day to reflect on the importance of labor in our country and the progress our country has made because of labor’s contributions.



I Respectfully Dissent

With the end of the Supreme Court’s latest term, several of its opinions have generated considerable attention and discussion.  And as is often the case, the more high-profile cases featured spirited dissents from the majority opinions by the Justices who were in the minority. 



Civics: Who Will Teach Them?

We can say with a good degree of confidence that the vast majority of United States citizens desire to be good citizens. It is hard to imagine many people, if asked, would say that they strive to be poor citizens. We may disagree on what it means to be a good citizen, but within our own definitions, we all want to be good ones.