Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Keeping Our Land Of The Free: Participate!

Hello gang! That Lawyer Dude is in Washington DC today to watch the United States Supreme Court in its’ opening day ceremonies. It is not as ornate as the first pitch at Yankee (or Shea) Stadiums and the crowds are not quite as big, but it is just as exciting.

The Supreme Court will decide about Two Hundred (200) of the most important cases this year. It will hear arguments every Monday through Wednesday from now until April and deliver all these decisions before the end of June. The atmosphere here is a lot like the first day of school. Everybody wants to know the subjects (the cases) and how things will turn out.

That Lawyer Dude is here because he is listening to the arguments in US v. Booker and Fanfan. These two cases are being argued together to determine how federal judges should punish people who are convicted of crimes. In my other life I am a criminal lawyer and these cases mean a lot to my clients. (You can visit our law firm web site at

It should be noted the court will not hear testimony and there are no witnesses called. The Supreme Court will not decide if the accused people are guilty or innocent. The Court is an Appellate Court and as the highest court in the land what they say goes unless the Congress and the President get together to change the law. In the cases that I am interested in today, there might have to be a change in the constitution if the Supremes (as we Lawyers sometimes call them {in jest of course}) rule the present sentencing rules to be unconstitutional.

“Okay so what does this mean to me,” you may be asking. Well, the thing about being here today, is it is more to me than just the one case I am here to hear. It is about the fact that the weightiest issues in American Law are being heard, out in the open and right in front of me. Anybody, me, you, anyone for the price of a ticket to Washington DC can hear these cases and see these people.

I can still hear some of you asking “ Ok Dude so still what is it to me.” I can only help explain by relaying a story. I have a friend who is not from the ole’ US of A. She is from a former Communist country that is a brand new democracy. In fact even before the communists, the country was a Monarchy. She and her family (and her countrymen) have no sense of what it means to participate in their government.

One day we were talking about a new rule that would deeply affect her life here in her new homeland. She was upset because she felt that the issue was one that was completely in the hands of people she did not know and who did not care about her. I was trying to explain why that was not the case, but she didn’t get it. She actually scoffed at That Lawyer Dude when he told her he would rally support for her cause among the decision makers in Washington DC. ! Silly girl was it possible she did not know the power of That Lawyer Dude! No, that was not it. She did not know the power of being an American. So we picked her up and put her on a train to Washington DC. Then unannounced we visited every congressman who was on the committee dealing with her legislation. Of the fifteen (15) Congressmen, everyone of them either visited with us or had an aide do so. We spent about Ten (10) to Twenty (20) minutes with each of them. They all had questions for her and they all wanted to know more about her situation and how the law could help or hurt people like her. We then left the offices and visited the House Chamber (where the Congressmen vote on the laws) to watch a debate. I explained how what she told these folks just might wind up as part of the debate. She had no idea how she, a lonely immigrant, not yet 23 years old could so deeply affect the system.. Going to Washington was the greatest gift I could have given her because now the system didn’t seem so impersonal. Now she could see how she could participate and have a say in the government.

When my friend becomes a citizen later this month she will get to vote in a presidential election as her first vote. I bet she will be the first on line!! The power to participate in our fate is what makes a democracy. The power to watch it happen, to see the faces of the decision makers, to be able to talk with them and to be able to hold them accountable on election day, to know that so much is being done right in front of us, that is what makes this a great country. I know a lot of you already know this, but being here in Washington D.C. just makes me want to tell you again. IT’S YOUR COUNTRY. KEEP IT FREE. PARTICIPATE. And while your at it, bring along a friend… it’s her country too!

If you have any ideas for how you and your family and/or classmates can get involved leave us a message here. You (or your family member if you are under 14 years of age) can also visit our website at Leave us a message there and I will get back to you.
Post a Comment