Law Day rewarded senior speakers with scholarships


by Cynthia Price


Last week’s Examiner article talked about Law Day, which is celebrated on May 1 across the nation to celebrate the rule of law and principles that allow that philosophy to prevail.

The Muskegon County Bar Association (MCBA) and partners give out the most coveted prizes, in the form of scholarships, to seniors who write and give the best speeches on each Law Day’s theme, which this year was “Separation of Powers – Framework for Freedom.”

The 2018 top award, a $2000 scholarship, went to Erynn Fullmer of Calvary Christian.

The judges for the senior prize were Muskegon County Prosecutor DJ Hilson, Judge John Ruck and attorney Cavan Berry.

Belinda Barbier and Samantha Jonas co-chaired the essay contest, while Alisha Riedl and Kevin Huss co-chaired the overall Law Day committee.

Additional people giving generously of their time were attorneys Jenny McNeill, Alana Wiaduck (current MCBA chair),  Adam Sheridan, Rachel Terpstra, David Kortering, and Jennifer Hylland, and former educational counselor John Noling of Rotary and David Klemm, MAISD.

Fullmer’s insightful speech, published below, took a deep dive into aspects of the presidential pardon – and approached it very differently than the 9-11 grade speech winner, Patrick Bouman, whose speech was in last week.

Fullmer said that her English teacher, Mr. Steven Soutz, asked all the students to write a speech on the topic, and then asked them who wanted to go through the process of competing for the scholarship. Soutz did not choose a favorite, but allowed the judges to make that decision.

After winning, Fullmer gave the speech to the crowd gathered last week. She commented, “It was a little bit nerve-wracking beforehand as I was waiting to go up – thinking, maybe I should have changed this, done that in my speech, and getting a little nervous. But then when I started speaking, I was kind of calmed, it felt very natural.”

The talented young woman will attend Spring Arbor University in the fall, to study biology and pre-med. She notes that she very much wants to be a doctor, but appreciates that improving her speaking skills will help her in any field. And she is very grateful for the scholarship award to help her on her way.

As mentioned last week, the other winners of the senior speech awards were Jade

Simmons of Muskegon High School; Jessica Assaad, also of Calvary Christian; and Brett Huff of North Muskegon.



Separation of Powers ­— the Power to Pardon

by Erynn Fullmer, Calvary Christian High School


The Constitution of the United States of America establishes a plan for a strong federal government with three branches – executive, legislative, and judicial – alongside a system of checks and balances to ensure no one branch would have too much power. Article 2 Section 2 of the Constitution states, “The President. . . shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment...” This means that the president, and he alone has the power to pardon convicted criminals under certain circumstances, excluding impeachment. More than 36,000 people have been pardoned or had their sentences alleviated by United States presidents. The president with the highest number of pardons or alleviated sentences is Andrew Johnson with about 7,000. Only a few have granted no pardons during their presidency, and those presidents had died or were assassinated in office. The way the pardoning power is being used today does not fit how the founders of the Constitution intended.

President Donald Trump recently pardoned sheriff Joe Arpaio who had previously been accused of various types of police misconduct, including abuse of power. Until 2011, when a Federal District Court injunction stopped the practice, Arpaio maintained an immigrant smuggling squad, which illegally stopped cars with Latino drivers or passengers to check their immigration status. Arpaio was found guilty for ignoring a court order for racial profiling. However, before he could be sentenced, President Trump pardoned him. Trump did not consult with the lawyers at the Justice Department before making and announcing his decision, unlike his predecessors. “Not only did Arpaio abdicate responsibility, he announced to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise.” The power of pardoning allows the president to release and pardon criminals who may continue committing the crimes for which they had been convicted, which can be dangerous to both individuals and our nation as a whole. This diminishes the power and ruling of the judicial branch and gives the president the power to make other unconstitutional decisions, such as pardoning himself.

But is the president allowed to pardon himself? Most experts would say no, because it goes against the Constitution and is illegal, but why do they say this - why is this being discussed in the first place? There have been unconfirmed reports that the Donald Trump administration has been investigating details about the pardoning power in relation to accusations of Russian election tampering. There have been investigations into the conclusion that Russia authorized hacking and other tactics in order to help Donald Trump during the campaign in order to tip the scales of the election. Most experts believe that if Trump did make a move like this, it would be an admission of guilt, resulting in potential revolt and crisis.

The fact that the pardoning power is even in the Constitution is a historical anomaly. The idea was taken from the royal grants of clemency in British tradition, and the framers of the Constitution – who had just revolted against a tyrannical king – were leery of putting too much power in the hands of one person, which is what the pardoning power does. In defense of the pardoning power, Alexander Hamilton stated that, ”humanity and good policy” require that such a power ought to remain in the hands of one person - as opposed to the many members of Congress - because “the sense of responsibility” he would feel in having such an enormous power over another person’s fate would guarantee that he used it with “scrupulousness and caution.” Yet somehow this thought doesn’t seem to cross President Donald Trump’s mind as his administration seeks pardoning for a crime that Trump is supposedly innocent of. “The point of the pardon power was to bestow mercy on another, not to enrich oneself.”

The founding fathers had many great ideas and aspirations for our country, but there are situations and circumstances today that were unforeseen. The way the pardoning power is used distorts the plan of checks and balances set in the Constitution by our forefathers; the founders did not intend for this right to be used for personal gain, but to be used to show mercy and to be used with conscientiousness and care.


Works Cited

Liptak, Kevin, Daniella Diaz, and Sophie Tatum. CNN Politics, 2018 Cable News Network, 27 Aug. 2017. Accessed 7 Mar. 2018.

Bomboy, Scott. Constitution Center, edited by Scott Bomboy, National Constitution Center, 21 July 2017. Accessed 7 Mar. 2018.

Mount, Steve. U.S., 30 Nov. 2001. Accessed 7 Mar. 2018.

Illing, Sean., Vox Media Inc, 21 July 2017. Access