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Judges Explain Rule of Law, Why It Matters

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What does the rule of law mean, and how does it affect our daily lives?

Nine federal judges, in a new Judiciary “Court Shorts” video, explain how fair and consistent adherence to the law protects our rights and well-being in everyday situations like buying a breakfast sandwich, reading mail, and investing in the stock market.

The video begins with a 2009 quote from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor: “I firmly believe in the rule of law as the foundation for all our basic rights.”

Federal judges speaking on the rule of law include: Diane Wood, Chief Judge of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals; Thomas Hardiman, Third Circuit Court of Appeals; Duane Benton, Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals; Colleen McMahon, chief judge of the Southern District of New York; Scott Skavdahl, chief judge of the District of Wyoming; Jill Otake, District of Hawaii; Karen Schreier, District of South Dakota; Robert Summerhays, Western District of Louisiana; and Jennifer Choe-Groves, Court of International Trade.

Key to the rule of law, judges say, is a commitment to applying the law to everyone fairly. Other attributes include applying the law to government, not just individuals and entities; making the law clear and legal proceedings transparent; and balancing individual rights against the safety of others. “Your right to swing your fist stops just short of my nose,” Benton said. “And that’s what the rule of law is meant to do, is to find that boundary.”

Court Shorts is a video series on courts and the Constitution that includes installments on the rule of law, separation of powers, and other pillars of our democracy. The series is intended for teens and adults who want to understand current events through the lens of the Constitution’s framework.

Related Topics: Public Education

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