Jan 06, 2019
Preserving Access to Justice Through Local Leadership
Jan 06, 2019
By Charles Dresow
My goal this year is to inspire our members to become leaders of our community. Each of us has the power to positively influence and inform those around us. We must educate the community that our system of justice in Marin is still fair, efficient, and accessible. And we must each dedicate ourselves to doing what we can to preserve, protect and continue the cause of fair, efficient and accessible justice in Marin.
In 2018, we have a duty to preserve our justice system, strengthen our system of laws, protect judicial independence and maintain the public’s easy access to the courts to seek peaceful redress for their grievances. The Marin County Bar Association’s mission statement emphasizes these goals. “To involve, encourage, and support bar association members, to serve as a liaison to the Marin County courts, and to educate the community and enhance access to legal services.” It is vital to note that the constituency of our association includes both the membership and the clients they represent. Our association must preserve the public’s trust in our institutions of justice. We must protect the orderly and fair administration of our laws. We must remember that we are a country of due process under the law and no one person can change that.
Given current events, as I read James Simon’s new book, "Eisenhower vs. Warren" (reviewed later in this issue), I pondered the fact that although President Eisenhower did not agree with the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education—feeling a gradual process of desegregation was a better course—his comment on the ruling was nonetheless, “The Supreme Court has spoken, and I am sworn to uphold the constitutional process in the country. And I will obey.” As we all know, the United States Supreme Court lacks an army, or really any real power at all, to enforce its judgments. It depends on other branches of our government to enforce its decisions. In 1957, the governor of Arkansas refused to comply with Brown and in fact deployed the Arkansas National Guard to stop nine African-American students from attending school. Armed troops were enforcing their governor’s opposition to a Supreme Court decision. President Eisenhower could have allowed the blockade to continue and gutted the country’s faith in the Supreme Court. The world watched. President Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard to remove them from the control of the governor and sent the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to enforce the ruling.
It is hard to imagine the current chief executive of our country using his power to enforce a United States Supreme Court decision he did not like. Think of the damage that would have occurred to the peaceful and fair administration of justice if President Eisenhower had not acted as he did. We are at or approaching another watershed moment in our country’s history. Practically, a local bar association and its members may have limited ability to influence national politics or national issues. But a local bar association does have the ability to support, protect, and preserve our own county’s system of justice. By doing this, we can enact positive change and set a positive example that, with similar efforts of others around the country, can help support, protect and preserve our country’s system of justice.
I look forward to this year as the Marin County Bar Association President. Please reach out to me directly if you have any ideas or suggestions on how to positively lead our community through this challenging time.
Charles Dresow is a partner at Ragghianti Freitas LLP. His practice focuses on representing those accused of crimes.