Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Founding Fathers Owed Debt of Gratitude, Turner Says
“Person of the Year” Paul Turner, presiding justice of Div. Five of this district’s Court of Appeal, after expressing thanks to members of his family, staff, colleagues and George Deukmejian who, as governor, appointed him, said:
Let me thank another group of people. They are 55 men who met in Philadelphia in 1787—they wrote our Constitution. They were not perfect men; 17 of them committed the ultimate moral and political sin of our democracy—they owned slaves. The Constitution they produced was an imperfect document. It could not even be ratified without the adoption of a Bill of Rights. And because of slavery, its final ratification did not occur until April 1865 after the deaths of the 359,528 American soldiers, sailors, and Marines killed suppressing the Confederate rebellion.
But between May and September 1787, those 55 men established the unalterable principle of the rule of law. On April 3, 1790, President George Washington wrote to the original members of the Supreme Court, “I have always been persuaded that the stability and success of the National Government, and consequently the happiness of the people of the United States, would depend to a considerable degree on the Interpretation and Execution of its laws.”
What is the power of the rule of law President Washington spoke of? Right now in cities like Baghdad, Fallujah, and Kabul, American soldiers climb into Black Hawk helicopters, ride in up-armored humvees, or disarm improvised explosive devices. The oath they take is to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. Soldiers of other countries take an oath to safeguard a fatherland, a throne, or a kingdom. American soldiers are the only ones who take an oath to preserve a piece of a paper—the Constitution that instituted the rule of law.
How close to us, in this room, is the power of the rule of law? This banquet is sponsored by a newspaper that covers what—the rule of law; how our courts conduct the public business. Judges like George and I are tasked with the duty to insure our laws are faithfully executed. With the rule of law, we do equal justice to the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, the guilty and the innocent. Joe represents the interests of persons who seek the protection of the rule of law and those who make our laws. This room is filled with attorneys who have invested their lives in the rule of law. Day in and day out, the attorneys here use the same skills as those practiced by the 55 men in Philadelphia—negotiation, compromise, and adherence to principle—all in the pursuit of the rule of law.
We owe those 55 men in Philadelphia a debt of gratitude. Providence has blessed us with their determined foresight. President Washington was right. The “stability and success” of America was dependent on the rule of law. To those 55 men, we can say, “We owe every precious thing to you.”
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company