If you are looking for a root cause of American lawlessness, you might look at America’s law schools.
The American Association of Law Schools (AALS) held its annual conference in January in San Francisco to examine the theme “Why Law Matters.” “I asked myself, would the American Medical Association have a conference on ‘Why Medicine Matters,’” Judge Edith H. Jones of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit asked archly at the annual meeting of the Philadelphia Society in Dallas last weekend. The Philadelphia Society is a group of conservative intellectuals formed in the wake of the Goldwater defeat in 1964.
Prior to the AALS meeting, the president of that society— Kellye Y. Testy
dean of the University of Washington School of Law— outlined what she saw as the “reasons law matters:”
- “Race-based violence and racial inequity in our criminal justice system;
- “Growing access to justice gaps as economic inequality widens;
- “Honest businesses struggling to compete in countries that do not value law and justice;
- “Deepening ethnic and religious conflicts and resulting migration surges;
- “Devastating gun violence expanding in number and scope.”
“From students to the general public to university presidents/provosts to leaders of major foundations, law is often seen too narrowly as being only a system of dispute resolution rather than in its broader role of creating the ecosystem for human flourishing,” Dean Testy stated. “One might liken it to a swamp rather than a utopia,” Judge Jones observed.
Judge Jones, a Reagan appointee, sees generality, universality, intelligibility, fair process and democratic processes as key to good law. Conversely, impunity, in which some well-connected officials are seemingly above the law, is one the greatest dangers the legal system, and those who rely on it, face.
She pointed to the scandals involving Veterans Administration hospitals during the Obama years as a specific example.