FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Law in Crisis

by RALPH NADER

In case you did not know, May 1 is Law Day! Initiated by the American Bar Association (ABA), established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and made official by Congress in 1961, Law Day was seen as a counterweight to May Day which celebrates the workers of the world within socialist and communist countries.

For Law Day, the ABA prepares materials and encourages events in communities and schools to give “us the opportunity to reflect upon the importance of equality under the law and of our nation’s guaranty of freedom for all.”

Local Bar Associations are urged to observe Law Day “to commemorate the rule of law, the judiciary and its place in American society.”

These are obviously important generalities. But unless they are tested in the realities of our times, they become important delusions. Bringing these legal values down their abstraction ladder provides a jolting reminder that our country is in the grips of chronic law-breaking from government officials, starting with the President, to managers of giant corporations whose dedicated goal is either to write the laws for themselves, via the corporate government in Washington and state capitals, or violate the laws with impunity due to their raw power and wealth.

One only needs to read the leading newspapers and see the regular documentation of the scofflaws that have turned the rule of law into an instrument of oppression directed at the weak and for the advantage of the strong. Whether in the pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal or in Associated Press stories, big corporations such as the banks, oil companies, and drug firms are shown to be, in the words of one concise prosecutor, “lying, cheating and stealing.”

A corporate crime wave is running amuck erroding people’s savings, pensions, jobs, health and safety! Corporatism is becoming the law of the land as enforcement budgets and political will shrink before the torrent of abuses.

Freedom is, partly, being left alone. But pollution doesn’t leave you alone, invasion of your privacy in an internet-credit/debit-economy does not leave you alone, rip-offs do not leave you alone.

Official lawlessness has reached new depths of decay. It is no longer just the usual graft of public officials, the violations of the prison-corporate complex, the arrogant greed of many government contractors, especially in the areas of militarism, natural resource grabs, corporate welfare subsidies or the various ways of bribing elected officials. Increasingly, presidents of the U.S. regularly violate our constitution, laws and treaties under the pretext of their own definition of national security and their own role as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner.

After all, it was the ABA itself, in a rare and great expression of professional duty, which sent three reports in 2005-2006 to President George W. Bush concluding that he was violating the constitution. Then ABA President, Michael Greco, called those years a period of very dangerous legal crisis for our Republic.

Welcome to the encore under President Obama and his “rule of man” superseding the rule of law. His tenure has marked the most extreme and chronic violations of separations of powers, of seizing the exclusive war declaring power (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11) from Congress, and in the case of the Libyan war, even dispensing with the authorization and appropriations authority of the Congress.

Freedom must include, as Marcus Cicero wrote, “participation in power.” Do people have any of that in the way our government makes major decisions? People can’t even have their day in court as long delays and court budget cutbacks nullify, in practice, constitutional rights for the accused.

Shut out as citizens, people are finding ever greater obstacles in gaining access to justice for their civil grievances. Former Supreme Court Justice, conservative Sandra Day O’Connor, has written eloquently on the absence of legal representation for tens of millions of low income Americans. She described the real effects this has on their lives, health, safety and property, as well as the basic problem of not being told of their rights.

The ABA knows all this and more about the failing rule of law, worsening inequality and shredded freedoms. But the largest organization of lawyers in the world is heavily populated by corporate attorneys whose clients in the plutocracy reward them generously.

As Wesley Smith and I noted in our book No Contest: Corporate Lawyers and the Perversion of Justice in America, they, as “officers of the court,” (as are all licensed attorneys) have difficulty dropping their attorney-corporate client hats and donning their “lawyer/professional” hats while on duty at the ABA’s far flung network of committees.

Given their embedded retainer/astigmatism, these big firm lawyers have aggressively fostered regimes over the people of one-sided fine print contracts (see faircontracts.org), weakened tort law for wrongfully injured persons and, most brazenly, even lobbied and litigated to place insuperable procedural obstructions before real peoples’ access to the courts. (See Arthur Miller’s Simplified Pleading, Meaningful Days in Court, and Trials on the Merits: Reflections on the Deformation of Federal Procedure .)

So, here is my advice to the ABA for future Law Days. Get a grip on the real crises in the law, its uses, misuses and hypocrisies. Convey that to the folks on Main Street so that lawyers and laborers, students and scholars can be given real reforms to ponder instead of deceptive illusions highlighted by annual presidential proclamations (See Obama’s Law Day Proclamation).

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.

 

 

More articles by:

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

July 20, 2017
Sebastian Friedrich – Gabriel Kuhn
A New Class Politics
Patrick Cockburn
The Massacre of Mosul: More Than 40,000 Civilians Feared Dead
Paul Street
The Abandonment: Reflections on James Foreman’s “Locking Up Our Own”
Kim Codella
A Practical Education
Frank Scott
America’s Trump, Not Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Clancy Sigal Goes Away
Don Monkerud
The Real Treason in DC: Turning Our Lives Over to Corporations
Brian Dew – Dean Baker
Are Amazon’s Shareholders Suckers?
Ralph Nader
Detecting What Unravels Our Society – Bottom-up and Top-down
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Covering Islam, Post-Jack Shaheen
Binoy Kampmark
Uhlmann’s Trump Problem
Patrick Walker
In Defense of Caitlin Johnstone
Barry Lando
Those Secret Putin-Trump Talks
Sean Marquis
Thank You, Donald Trump
July 19, 2017
Adam Ziemkowski and Rebekah Liebermann
How Seattle Voted to Tax the Rich
Patrick Cockburn
Why ISIS Fighters are Being Thrown Off Buildings in Mosul
John W. Whitehead
Zombies R Us: the Walking Dead of the American Police State
Mateo Pimentel
Net Neutrality’s Missing Persons
Adil E. Shamoo - Bonnie Bricker
Yemen Policy is Creating More Terrorists
L. Ali Khan
U.S. Misreads Pakistan’s Antifragility
David Macaray
Fear and Trembling in the Workplace
Brian Trautman, Gerry Condon and Samantha Ferguson
Veterans Call on U.S. to Sign Nuclear Ban Treaty
Binoy Kampmark
Militarising Civilian Life: Australia, Policing and Terrorism
Ricardo Vaz
Venezuelan Opposition “Consultation”: Playing Alone and Losing
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Cold-Hearted Agenda is Immoral
Raul Castro
We will Continue to Advance Along the Path Freely Chosen by Our People
July 18, 2017
James Bovard
Obama’s AWOL Anti-War Protesters
Gary Leupp
CNN: “Russia is an Adversary, Ukraine is Not.”
Ryan Shah
Beware the Radical Center
John Carroll Md
Cold Hands Don’t Need Narcotics
Derrick Jensen
Endangered Species Don’t Need an Ark – They Need a Living Planet!
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Canadian Conjucture
Arturo Lopez-Levy
Trump’s Cuba Restrictions: a Detour, Not the Future
Russell Mokhiber
State Street Bentley University Business Ethics and Corporate Crime
Laura Finley
Being Too Much
Robert J. Gould
What is Our Experience of our Flawed Democracy?
Taju Tijani
The Burden of Indivisible Nigeria
Guillaume Pitron
China Now Leads in Renewables
Ted Rall
How I Learned Courts are Off-Limits to the 99 Percent
Binoy Kampmark
Militarising Civilian Life: Australia, Policing and Terrorism
July 17, 2017
Gregory Wilpert
Time for the “International Left” to Take a Stand on Venezuela
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Embrace of the Saudi Crown Prince, and a Qatar Nightmare Scenario
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Liu Xiaobo: the West’s Model Chinese
Terry Simons
Why I Did Not Go to Vietnam
Jim Green
Nuclear Power’s Annus Horribilus
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail