What’s the proper role of judiciary in U.S.?
May 3, 2005
As president of the State Bar of Nevada, I feel compelled to respond on behalf of Nevada’s attorneys to the recent, unprecedented attacks being made on state and federal court judges throughout the country.
Pundits and commentators have excoriated judges for their handling of cases (in particular the sad circumstances of the Terry Schiavo matter). Violence has visited the home of a federal jurist in Chicago and has invaded the state courthouse in Atlanta.
It occurs to me that much of this criticism may stem from a misunderstanding on the part of the public as to the proper role of the judiciary in our American society.
The Founding Fathers created three, co-equal branches of government (the executive, the legislative and the judicial) as a system of “checks and balances” that would preclude overreaching by any single branch and would preserve the Rule of Law for all citizens. It has been said that “we are a nation of laws, not of men.”
These same principles apply to our state in the form of our governor, the Nevada Legislature (Senate and Assembly), and the Supreme Court of Nevada (and the lower state courts).
American Bar Association President Robert J. Grey Jr. recently said, “Regardless of how one feels about the specific circumstances of the Schiavo – or any – situation, the role of the judiciary is clear. Federal and state judges are charged with weighing the facts of a case and following the remedies set forth in the law – responsibilities they carry out valiantly and with great dignity and sensitivity.”
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In my opinion, all judges bring to the bench their innate, individual humanity and life experiences. Each of them brings their intellect to bear on the facts of each case, as those facts relate to the applicable law. Our Democratic society requires that we be judged with discernment. No judge creates law. Every judge preserves law. We would be ill-served by a robotic approach to justice.
Life in a Democratic society requires that the Rule of Law be observed and cherished, or we risk losing those freedoms we have come to take for granted and hold dear.
The Schiavo case also has spurred interest on the part of many persons in ensuring that their personal wishes are carried out in the event of a terminal illness or other grave injury rendering them unable to communicate their choices.
In Nevada, NRS 449.830 provides a form for a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions. You may access those forms via the State Bar’s Web site, http://www.nvbar.org, and click on Forms. I urge all adult Nevadans to avail themselves of this easy way to avoid the terrible tragedy which tore apart the Schiavo family.
Thank you for allowing me to share my concerns with the residents of Nevada at this unique time in the history of our nation and state. Working together, we can all come to understand the critical role of our judges in the framework of our Democracy and in the preservation of the Rule of Law for all Americans.
n Ann Price McCarthy is president of the State Bar of Nevada. She lives and practices in Carson City.