Law Day reflects rule of law importance

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jefferson Brown
  • 39th Air Base Wing staff judge advocate
In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the first Law Day. No worries though ... Law Day is not a day to celebrate lawyers, not even a judge advocate general could get excited about that. It is a day of national dedication to the principles of government under law. 

This year's theme is "Rule of Law: Foundation for Communities of Opportunity and Equity." The Rule of Law refers to a system of self-government with an open and accessible legal process. 

This system must be based on fair and stable laws that are justly and appropriately enforced. This concept is so central to our beliefs that it is sometimes hard to fathom what life would be without it - though recent world events help paint a picture. 

Every day, Team Incirlik works to provide stability to the Middle East region. In doing so, we see first-hand the challenges and successes in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The key to long-term stability in these countries, and a major focus of operations there, is creation of a system of government based on the Rule of Law. 

To this end, military members and the Iraqi military work side-by-side. The Iraqi police force is becoming better-trained and more capable every day. 

Judge advocates and paralegals are deploying in droves to assist forward deployed judges and prosecutors establish a court system - one the locals can trust and rely upon. The progress is real and Team Incirlik's role in this progress is pivotal. 

Although Iraq and Afghanistan provide a dramatic case study, examples are not limited to that area and can strike even closer to home. 

Approximately six months ago I was watching a prime-time news show focusing on the New Orleans criminal justice system. The piece detailed how Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city's justice system. 

Following the storm, the courthouse and police headquarters were underwater - along with evidence from more than 3,000 pending cases. 

Although it was disturbing to hear what happened in 2005, what was truly unsettling to me was the state of affairs two years later. 

Violent crime continued to spiral out of control as the police did not have the resources to patrol the streets. 

When someone was arrested, there was neither adequate defense representation nor the resources to adequately prosecute the case. 

Because of insufficient evidence or witnesses who no longer felt safe cooperating, prosecutors were forced to drop cases. 

Many people lost faith that their government would protect them and hold people accountable for their crimes. 

As recently as last year, the New Orleans Police superintendent stated that the city was "faced with the daily reality of an imminent collapse of [its] criminal justice institutions." 

The ongoing lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan and New Orleans highlight how critical the Rule of Law is to a civilized society. This year's Law Day theme is relevant to our affairs both overseas and at home. 

In recognition of Law Day, the legal office will sponsor a 5K "Law Day" run/walk 8 a.m. May 10 at Arkadas Park. Additionally, the Keystone Club will present a mock trial in our courtroom from 1-4 p.m. May 29.