Wednesday, August 09, 2006
In a keynote address at the American Bar Association's annual meeting in Hawaii, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy gave a muted warning to members assembled there:
"We are at another turning point in the history of the law," Kennedy remarked. Discussing the importance of an independent judiciary, Kennedy added, "I sense a slight foreboding, I sense that we are not making the case as well as we ought."
Kennedy went on to say that he defines the rule of law in three parts:
"The first, is that the law is binding on the government and all of its officals.
The second part is that the rule of law must respect the dignity, equality, and human rights of every person.
And then there's a second sentence. And the second sentence says that the people are entitled to have a voice in the laws that govern them. So there's a process element. But it isn't just process. Because the right to participate in government is nothing less than the right to help shape your own destiny.
My third suggestion for you to think about surprised me when I first wrote it. And it was this: that every person has a right to know what the laws are, and to enforce them without fear of retaliation or retribution."
Anthony Kennedy is the third Supreme Court Justice in the past seven months to speak out against the shadow of tyranny that's been spilling across this nation since the advent of the Bush regime. Some may remember that in March, outgoing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor--who in essence helped install the President in a move she may later have regretted--said this in an address to a gathering of lawyers at Georgetown:
"It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings."
The same alarm was later echoed in May by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In a speech to the ABA, she slammed a Republican proposal to create a 'watchdog agency' meant to oversee all Federal courts, including the Supreme Court; in essence subordinating the Judicial Branch to the Executive.
"My sense now is that the judiciary is under assault in a way that I haven't seen before...It sounds to me very much like the Soviet Union was....That's a really scary idea."
And now Kennedy comes forth as well to ring the alarm bells. Has there been such a precedent as this in living memory? Perhaps the most compelling and urgent call to action came at the conclusion of Kennedy's address:
"For us law is a liberating force. Its a promise, its a covenant, that says you can hope, you can dream, you can dare...you can plan; you have joy in your existence.
That's the meaning of the law...as Americans understand it.
And that's the meaning of the law that we must explain to a doubting world, where the verdict is still out.
You can make this case.
You must make this case.
And that is because freedom--your freedom; my freedom; and the freedom of the next generation hangs in the balance."