President Brown: Upholding the Rule of Law Is Our Sacred Trust
Lawyers have a mission and a responsibility to uphold the Constitution.
This was a key message delivered by President T. Andrew Brown today as part of the Law Day 2022 celebration held at the Court of Appeals in Albany. This year’s theme is “Toward a More Perfect Union: The Constitution in Times of Change.”
“While our Constitution is a remarkable document, it is a start to a more perfect union, said Brown. “We must not only advocate for this document that we hold so dear but also challenge how well we as a society are being true to it. It is not enough to have justice for some, but not all.”
Lawyers, he said, fight every day to protect the public’s faith in our system of government and continue to urge elected leaders to uphold the Constitution.
While it’s “not perfect,” the court system remains the last bastion of truth and civility, serving as a “check and balance” on the fountain of misinformation so prevalent in today’s society.
“This is something our profession can be proud of,” said Brown.
He said, perhaps more than ever, “we have seen our Constitution and rule of law at risk these last few years. We have seen how fragile and precious the rule of law could be in the wrong hands, but we also have seen how strong the rule of law is and will continue to be.”
To the rest of the world, the United States is what a perfect union looks like and a model government, he said. “We have an obligation to ourselves, and to the rest of the world, to live up to that standard.”
He explained that we now regularly witness social upheaval, discrimination, and injustice.
“When the Constitution was created, certain people were left out. Some individuals are still not treated fairly and continue to be victims of institutional racism,” said Brown. “In order to achieve a more perfect union, we have to do more as a country, as a state, as individuals. We must protect the individual rights of disenfranchised citizens.”
For example, he cited that seventy-five percent of transgender students felt unsafe at school because of their gender expression. At least 61 bills in 31 states aim to exclude children and teens who are transgender from participating in school sports programs that are consistent with their gender identity.
Simultaneously, there are hundreds of bills in at least 40 states right now designed to disenfranchise Black and brown voters, said Brown.
“We have to allow people equal rights to participate in government. That goes back to beginning of time. There is simply no greater right and opportunity to participate in our democratic processes than voting,” said Brown. “It is about equal opportunity to engage and have a voice, yet so many people have been denied that opportunity including blacks, women, and LGBTQ citizens.”
Yet, Brown was optimistic about the future. Conversations with his teenage daughter about the responsibility we have to leave behind a better world for future generations encourage him.
“We talk about inclusion and belonging, ensuring that we all do the right thing, being a good citizen and friend, and knowing when to stick up for ourselves and our community,” said Brown.
He noted that putting a law on the books will not make instant change, but meaningful change will occur by addressing long-standing and deep-seated issues of equity and discrimination directly.
“We as lawyers, no matter our political beliefs, must find common ground in our shared responsibility to advocate for individual liberties guaranteed in the constitution,” said Brown. “We must be the model citizens that our model government envisions as we create a more perfect union.”
He asked everyone to join him in this noble pursuit. “It should never be about one of us, but all of us.”
Click here to watch the courts’ recording of Law Day 2022.