From county courthouses and city halls to Supreme Court buildings, state capitols, and the halls of Congress you’ll find images of Lady Justice. Her eyes are adorned with a blindfold and stately robes drape her elegant figure. Lady Justice wields a set of scales in one hand and a sword in the other. The scales are where she weighs the merits of a case’s prosecution and defense. The sword is her power to convey reason and justice, for or against any in her presence. Lady Justice stands as a symbol of the fair and equal dispensation of the law, without partiality or corruption, but in truth and with candor.
The ideals of Lady Justice can be found in most judicial elections around the country; judges are often elected or appointed in a non-partisan manner. According to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Judicial Candidate Guide, political parties and any committee affiliated with a political party is prohibited from engaging in fundraising on behalf of a candidate, nor can they accept a contribution or endorsement from a political party or related committee. The judicial candidate cannot personally solicit or accept campaign contributions or personally solicit publicly stated support. No judicial candidate can use or allow the use of campaign contributions for the private benefit of the candidate or others. While every judge brings to the bench their own personal life experience and sense of right and wrong, the ultimate intent here is to remove the possibility of outside influence, whether through money or politics.
I must admit, I have often wondered why, if judges are statutorily required to remain non-partisan to ensure they adorn Lady Justice’s blindfold and wield both the scales and sword without bias, those acting on behalf of and legally representing the people are not held to an equally politically isolated standard? Why do we allow state Attorneys General and local District Attorneys to run in partisan races but not judges? Should not they, too, act on behalf of the people to prosecute offenders without political partiality or under the influence of hefty donors? It would, then, seem plausible to require Attorneys General and District Attorneys to put on the same blindfold of justice and propagate the law for the betterment of all citizens, regardless of various persuasions.
With the passage of health care reform in Congress, many states, including my own Mississippi, are seeing partisanship hinder the better judgment of many Attorneys General. Americans may do well to require their state’s chief prosecutor, lead law enforcement official, and primary legal advisor to visit Lady Justice. All but refusing to represent the state’s interest in cases directly affecting its citizens out of what can only be defined as purely political associations is not properly attending to the law, nor is it upholding the oath to defend the Constitution of their state or of the United States. While no person is completely impartial in their private thoughts, Mississippi and other states like her would conceivably do well to have a neutral public interpreter of the law whose sole intention was to protect the interest and rights of the taxpayers of their state, not their political ideology.
I am not foolish enough to believe that removing party classifications and restricting campaign fundraising alone will change our system or bring about a revolution in America’s legal world. I do, however, question the system that allows for such obvious prejudices on the one hand but not the other. Should citizens continue to allow this inequity in our highest legal offices locally and in the individual states, why not revert to partisan judicial elections? After all, apparently it isn’t about the law or the Constitution; only power, politics, and money.
Many Americans, especially my neighbors here in Mississippi, are sick and tired of liberal, activist judges. While justice is meant to be blind, all too often judges impose their hidden political ideologies into their rulings, largely resulting in the political struggles and protests we see now throughout our country. Wouldn’t it be easier if we already knew judges’ political bent before they took a seat at the bench? We know Attorneys General or District Attorneys’ party affiliation; why not judges’?
I am of the belief that political party affiliation matters, whether you like it or not. Who a candidate aligns him or herself with is telling of how they will handle the business of the people. Party affiliation can also point to one’s character and patterns of belief in terms of their philosophy of humanity, freedom, liberty, and spirituality. Further, I believe that the voting public, for the most part, is cognizant of what both Democrats and Republicans stand for (not so much for Independents or other Third Party candidates). The majority of the voting public generally knows the difference between liberal and conservative policies and ideologies and will vote along those lines. Party affiliation speaks volumes in our day.
Yet, the great divide of our day is not as much about partisan politics as you might think; it is more about a system of basic American belief. If the divide was purely about politics, then bipartisanship would at times win the day. You see, in politics, everyone wants to win and no one wants to be hung out to dry by themselves if they can help it. Many a vote has changed out of fear of standing alone. Believe me, I have seen it first hand at City Hall and we have all seen it recently in the halls of Congress.
I believe this divide goes much deeper than the usual scapegoat of politics. I am of the belief that America is rapidly exiting an era of compromise and entering an era of principle. In this new era of principle, it will be up to us as individuals to search for truth diligently and to actively engage our communities, not necessarily to win their vote or approval, but to once again promote and instill the basic foundations of our uniquely American experience.
The divisions we are seeing today within the minds of the American people will have one of two effects: 1) either our nation will spiral down the slippery slope toward European style socialism with the further nationalization of private business, increased government intrusion in individual freedoms, and an ever growing national deficit, or 2) the sleeping giant that is the American people will awaken and will rise up to once again instill the principles upon which our nation was founded – limited government, free market economics, limited taxation, community involvement – all leading to a resurgence of the American spirit, with a hope in the American dream and a belief in the exceptionalism of the American nation.
Keeping Lady Justice in mind, we must begin to reform our government and question the establishment with boldness, starting with our legal system. After all, we are not a democracy where the minority only has the rights given them by the majority in power. We are a Republic, where the powers of sovereignty are vested in the people and are exercised by the people, either directly, or through representatives chosen by the people. A democracy’s power is in the group will; a Republic’s power is in each individual citizen. We would all do well to remember these truths, especially those entrusted with defending the law and the Constitution on behalf of the general public. President Obama seemingly could use an extended stay with Lady Justice; it seems a visit is well over due.
I trust this discourse has made you think. Consistently questioning such oxymoronic governmentally induced practices only serves to provide a dialogue conducive to refining our uniquely American experience. Lady Justice would be proud of you for weighing such ramblings. The next step will be for us all to wield the sword wisely.
Frank Corder is a twice-elected Republican City Councilman in Pascagoula, Mississippi. He hosts and co-hosts political talk shows on local radio and television.