Mere minutes after Trump’s “so-called Judge” tweet – which twittered into the atmosphere on a Saturday morning – my faculty email lit up like the Congressional switchboard of late. And Mitchell Hamline’s faculty is by no means alone. Law professors and lawyers around the country are deeply concerned about the President’s language and attitude toward the Judicial Branch. Many of my colleagues share my disappointment and personal sorrow at this attack on a system we are all – as officers of the court – sworn to uphold and protect.
At the same time, we are witnessing an unprecedented interest in and support for that very system. Tens of thousands of people tuned in to listen to the audio – not even video – of oral arguments on a restraining order before a three judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. All kinds of media attention has been paid the lawyers who rushed out to airports to help refugees and immigrants; those lawyers hailed as heroes of the resistance. Nightly news has been full of discussions of standing and “likelihood of success on the merits” and standards of review. It’s been like law professor porn!
So here’s what I’m learning: the American people want to understand what is going on. And not just the radical fringes of left and right. No, that vast middle – both those who did not vote for Trump and those who did – watched CNN and tuned in to the oral arguments too. Could it be that the majority – not a slim majority, but a REAL majority – cares as much as I do about preserving American democracy? I like to think so – makes me feel less crazy and alone, that’s for sure.
My wonderful colleagues at Mitchell Hamline and the other local law schools as well as clinical law professors from all over the country are working to figure out what role we can play in connecting with that majority. We are sworn to uphold and protect our system of government, yes, but we also possess unparalleled training and privilege, as lawyers and law professors. We are legal educators!
So we can educate. And not only law students, but anyone and everyone. I am working to connect with others – lawyers and non-lawyers alike – to develop materials and put together trainings about the legal system and institutions of government. You know, civics: the court system, the relationship between state and federal governments, the separation of powers, the history of executive orders, checks and balances, roles of the judicial, executive and legislative branches, etc.
Rachel Maddow spent her whole show last night discussing the Rule of Law. She wondered in our current circumstances how the Rule of Law can be upheld and protected, and by whom. I wonder the same thing. Learning and teaching a bit about American history and our system of governance seems a really good way to start answering that question.