Opinion

Don’t miss out on seeing justice system in action

TORRENS TALK

Friday, May 2 is Law Day. This event is a celebration of the gift our founders gave us when they created this country: our Constitution. Our Constitution is the supreme law of the land and for 219 years the rule of law has governed our country.

Nowadays that may seem commonplace and not worthy of attention. After all, even when this country did not know who our president was the day after the 2000 election, we naturally just let the process and the courts do their thing. That alone should have been a ringing endorsement of how well the rule of law can work in keeping people civil and peaceful. There were no violent, armed protests, no coups, there was nothing. People were willing to let the lawyers and the justice system do its job.

It is precisely because we are willing to let our laws and the justice system do its job that we should take some time to honor this great achievement. There are many places in the world where the rule of law does not hold sway and people and countries suffer for it. We have a system that many in the world want for themselves. We should not let the fact that rule of law is such a part of the fabric of our lives that we don’t even recognize it as such. That fact alone should be why it should be acknowledged.

Our Constitution along with its Bill of Rights is what allows us to be us. The Constitution prescribes the structure of our government. It delineates the responsibilities and limitations of the three branches of government. It tells us who can run for office, how long they serve and their basic job description.

The Bill of Rights sets forth what government cannot deny to individuals. People have the right to express themselves, including expressing displeasure and dissenting opinions with the government. People also have the freedom to practice, or not, their faith without government interference. People can hold peaceful protests, expect due process, right to trial by jury and more. And, whenever these rights are abridged, people can go to court to see them restored.

We also use the system to regulate our lives and create a civilized society. We may not consciously recognize that without such structure, we would live in a chaotic and lawless environment. At times, we may get frustrated with the results but if we don’t like the results, we use legal means to change them.

Kitsap County will be honoring Law Day. The day will start with a keynote by former U.S. Attorney Jim McKay at 9 a.m. Following him at 10 a.m., the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division II will hold hearings at the Kitsap County Commissioners’ Chambers in the Kitsap County Administration Building in Port Orchard.

There are a number of cases on the docket ranging from drug dealing convictions to sexual offender convictions. The appeals of these convictions cover issues that are central to our legal system: was the defendant denied the right to a jury trial, was due process violated, was the defendant deprived of a fair trial due to possible prosecutorial misconduct, were elements for conviction proved beyond a reasonable doubt?

The public is invited to attend these hearings and see the justice system in action. Because this court is normally in Tacoma, it is a special occasion that should not be missed.

If you cannot begin to imagine, nor would want to, how this country would be without our constitution and the concomitant legal system, then you should definitely partake in the Law Day celebration. Every year we celebrate our independence. We should do no less for the structure that allows us to keep it.

Val Torrens appears Wednesdays in the CK Reporter.

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