About the Law and Lawyers

Something I wrote in an email a few years ago found its way to my consciousness yesterday; I liked what I said, so I decided to memorialize it here. Is that the height of arrogance or is the fact I admit I enjoy something I wrote enough to want to share it an admission of humanity? I’ll let someone else be the judge.

I love the idea of someone who knows the law, but is not of it, sitting on the Supreme Court.  In fact, I would support the concept on courts of all types.  Lawyers too often believe their own hype about their own near-divinity.  They would be better at meting out justice if their opinions were subject to a filter of compassion and practical logic, in addition to the standard of rigid adherence to constitutional and case law.  Of course the public policy ramifications of that sort of change would be earth-shattering!

I wrote this as if it were a “truth,” even though I know full-well many lawyers do not fit the stereotype I painted with my words. One of my nephews is an attorney; he is not like the lawyer I described. I have friends who are attorneys. They do not fit the stereotype. But I cling to it, nonetheless, because it is true of enough lawyers to color my perception of the profession. And, I should admit, I once gave serious thought to attending law school. That was well after I graduated from college, but I seriously thought about it because I found the law fascinating. I loved the logic at its core; the logic that can argue against itself in good conscience and applaud success even in defeat.  But that was not to be. Maybe that was for the best; I am afraid I might have turned in to one of the lawyers with whom I take great offense. I may have allowed myself to believe my own stories about my greatness. Some people do. I was never able to concoct such stories. But that is another story in itself.

People who know the law but who are not of it comprise too small a minority in the United States. That is, in part, because laws are far too complex and too prevalent. But it’s also because we do not give lay people who know the law enough appreciation and enough opportunity to share their insights. Laws are simply ‘cookbook’ rules that attempt to shape civil engagement through legal pronouncements of morality. But they arise through the lens of morality in play at the time they are conceived. Over time, the arbiters of the meaning and application and interpretation of laws see through different lenses, yet they are (ostensibly) bound by the intent of the framers of the laws for which they are responsible to interpret.

I do not know exactly where I am going with this. Maybe I should not have started writing on a subject about which I have absolutely no credentials. But that logic plays into the hands of the lawyers who see themselves as the divine tellers of  truth. Achh! For now, I will simply stop writing and allow my thoughts to find their permanent place on the internet where, perhaps a thousand years hence, someone will read what I wrote and decide “the author may have been inept and inarticulate, but he had a point.”

I have something else to say, but it does not fit well into this post, so either I will write another one now or I will make a note to write another one later. Capisci?

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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