Our judicial system serves as a guardian of precious freedoms


Tom Kirvan
Legal News, Editor-in-Chief

The Founding Fathers of the United States were a distinguished lot, and included five future presidents of what ultimately would become the most powerful and admired country in the world.

Its stature as the foremost economic, military, and political force in the world didn’t happen by accident, but instead was the result of a magnificently designed system of government that continues to stand the test of time against challenges real and imagined.

Nearly half of the Founding Fathers were lawyers, which largely explains the group’s ability to craft a framework of government that has endured since the U.S. Constitution was adopted 235 years ago.

Historians rate that document as a governmental masterpiece, akin to the artistry of a Rembrandt, da Vinci, van Gogh, or Michelangelo. It served as the structure for the development of American civilization, defining a series of inalienable rights and freedoms that are enshrined in the Constitution through the Bill of Rights.

As the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights guarantees certain civil rights and liberties to each individual, including freedom of speech, worship, and assembly, as well as the right to bear arms and to be afforded due process of law.

The Bill of Rights derives from the Magna Carta of 1215 and was adopted as a single unit in 1791, constituting a collection of guarantees of individual rights and of limitations on federal and state governments.

The 10 Amendments, of course, have been the subject of much consternation over the past two centuries, as state and federal courts have attempted to define the legislative intentions of the Founding Fathers who were operating in the context of a world where cars, computers, and the conveniences of modern society didn’t exist.

Fortunately for us, what did exist was their foresight in establishing a three-pronged system of government that came complete with a series of checks and balances to prevent one branch from usurping the power of the other two – much to the dismay of any would-be dictator.

Not surprisingly, there have been several ill-fated attempts to redefine that system of governance, each of which has been thwarted by an American judiciary dedicated to upholding the rule of law. The judiciary’s pivotal role in protecting our democracy stems in part on how its members are selected, especially at the federal level where lifetime appointments automatically raise the stakes throughout the nomination and confirmation process.

Candidates for federal judicial office are subject to a grueling and time-consuming selection process, where virtually every part of their professional and personal life is under public scrutiny. It begins by nature of the job itself, which requires that each candidate be a licensed lawyer who has earned a juris doctor degree from an accredited law school in the United States.

The vetting involves the FBI and the American Bar Association, which separately weigh in on each candidate’s qualifications and suitability for federal office. If they make the grade on both counts, candidates then must appear for a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee as a prelude to a formal vote on the nomination by the full Senate. By constitutional design, the process helps ensure a federal court’s independence from the President and Congress, which can be a many splendored thing when either branch has nefarious intentions in mind.

Such as when a president began filing a series of frivolous lawsuits across the country, challenging the results of a presidential election on a number of baseless grounds. In each case, some 63 in all, state and federal courts tossed aside the claims, dismissing suit after suit for a glaring “lack of evidence.”

The threat that he and other political extremists continue to pose to our democratic institutions of government will be on full display in the coming months as his legal troubles continue to mount. 

We can only hope that his reckless disregard for the rule of law will prove to be his ultimate undoing.

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