Saturday, July 4, 2009

Securing the Blessings of Liberty

Preamble to the United States Constitution
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Fourth Amendment
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Fifth Amendment
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Sixth Amendment
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Eighth Amendment
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." James Madison, Speech in the Virginia Convention, June 16, 1788

And, of course, the Declaration of Independence.

These are the words that stir me to action, have always stirred me. I was always a Constitutional era history junkie. In high school, I knew the Constitution almost by heart. I would have told you James Madison was my hero (with a nod to John Marshall and Thurgood Marshall). I took every constitutional law class I could in college, where I majored in political science, with an emphasis on American political theory.

I have always said the flag doesn't do much for me. It's just a piece of fabric. And I have to admit, I really hate the song "God Bless America". But if they displayed the Bill of Rights or read from the Declaration of Independence at every sporting event, I would happily rise and place my hand over my heart. Those words are the way to my patriotic heart.

So, what better job is there for a Constitution-lovin' fool than Public Defender? How else could I go to work every day with the purpose of defending the Constitution? I get to go to work every day and give effect to those glorious words and I get to protect those rights for which revolutionaries fought and died. I get to protect all citizens against abuses of government, like the imprisonment of government critics, entries by government into citizens' homes, the falsifying of affidavits to convict persons for political reasons, the denial of liberty without due process of law. I don't see myself as just a lawyer; I see myself as continuing the mission begun by those who fought the revolution and drafted the Bill of Rights. I do my best to keep the government honest against those gradual and silent encroachments James Madison warned us about.

I give you, then, a new way to look at the public defender. Not as a lazy lawyer, a public pretender, or someone who couldn't get a "real" law job. Look at this public defender as this: a true patriot.




3 comments:

DBB said...

I feel the same way. It is too bad that the fourth amendment has been effectively eliminated.

Or that in general, many judges seem to think that constitutional rights can somehow exist without any remedy or real effect.

Language Lover said...

I have been spending too much time on Facebook. I don't have any interesting comments, but I really wanted just to "like" this post. :)

Anali said...

Very nice! I hope you had a Happy 4th!

 
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