The Rule of Law has been in the limelight lately as one foreign country after another struggles to preserve its democracy and thwart tyranny. As turmoil spreads across the world, all Americans should reflect on the value of this country’s Rule of Law, which protects our freedoms as American citizens. That is why Law Day 2008 was dedicated to the Rule of Law, so all Americans could celebrate the foundation of our freedom.
The Rule of Law is also the foundation of Law Day, so it is appropriate that Law Day 2008 was dedicated to the Rule of Law. On May 1, Law Day celebrated its 50th anniversary. Five decades ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued a proclamation declaring “it is fitting that the American people should remember with pride and vigilantly guard the great heritage of liberty, justice and equality under the law.” Law Day was born.
Law Day is a time to remember and appreciate the many individual rights and freedoms we cherish as Americans. Third World countries envy our democracy and seek the Rule of Law to gain freedom and improve their human rights. The Rule of Law is not only the key to a free society; it is the cornerstone of a lawful civilization. And it is the lawyers who stand up and protect the Rule of Law, in this nation and across the world.
When Pakistan’s President suspended that country’s national constitution and Rule of Law last November, it was Pakistan’s lawyers who stood up to defend the Rule of Law and condemn this action. More than 1,500 lawyers were arrested and eight Supreme Court judges were detained, but they remained strong in their commitment to preserve Pakistan’s democracy. As one Pakistani citizen exclaimed on a national broadcast, “If not for the lawyers…….” Lawyers fought to uphold Pakistan’s Rule of Law and thwart tryanny……it was the lawyers!
Outraged over President Musharraf’s profound breach of the Rule of Law, American lawyers united in condemnation of this action and demanded the immediate restoration of justice. When a nation’s Constitution is suspended and its Supreme Court is shut down, it is a harsh blow to the Rule of Law that echoes around the world. Thus, U.S. lawyers, inspired by the dogged courage of their Pakistani colleagues, joined in the defense of the foundation of a free society, the Rule of Law.
That is why American lawyers joined in. Last November, the American Bar Association (ABA) led state bar associations, including the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA), in a nationwide protest when Musharraf shut down Pakistan’s lawful institutions of justice. MSBA issued a press release announcing that Maryland Lawyers were deeply disturbed over Pakistan’s threats to lawyers and the Rule of Law. Lawyers across the U.S. rallied in support of the ABA’s quest to use a peaceful and legal means to persuade President Musharraf to restore justice to the people of Pakistan.
First, the ABA initiated an online petition seeking signatures of U.S. attorneys supporting the full restoration of the Rule of Law in Pakistan. Next, a group of roughly 700 U.S. lawyers, including representatives from MSBA, dressed in black and gathered in Washington, D.C., to march in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to show their solidarity. Ultimately, 13,000 signatures of American lawyers were personally delivered by ABA representatives to Pakistan’s ambassador urging that the Rule of Law be restored.
The loss of the Rule of Law, as reflected in Pakistan, means the loss of freedom and democratic order, which is why Pakistani lawyers united in its defense. The Rule of Law protects its people from vigilantes, violence, abuses of power and the tyrannical reign of political leaders and government dictators. It shields citizens from those seeking power to the detriment of their democracy, like Musharraf.
The Rule of Law is essential in sustaining and preserving a free and lawful society. But, this cornerstone of justice is fragile; the recent tyranny in Pakistan demonstrates just how fragile it is. In our contemporary global world of terrorism and growing dictatorships, the threats to the Rule of Law are very real. All Americans should appreciate our nation’s Rule of Law and treasure the freedoms it guarantees us as citizens.
Thus, on the 50th anniversary of Law Day, Americans saluted our country’s Rule of Law. We applauded the heroism of Pakistani lawyers struggling to restore the Rule of Law in their nation as well as all of the U.S. lawyers who stood up to support them. We recognized how fragile our Rule of Law really is and strived to strengthen and protect it. On Law Day 2008, MSBA and Maryland’s legal community joined the public in commemorating the foundation of that freedom – the Rule of Law.