Thank you for returning to Common Sense Civics and Citizenship. Courts and the justice system are in the spotlight big-time this week. Maybe you watched wall-to-wall coverage of the Rittenhouse trial… or maybe not. One thing for sure, we are all reminded of our civic duty, which isn’t really taught much these days. We cover it in a way that isn’t found in the media, but from an educational perspective.The goal is to give you reading material that you can use, not another angle to inflame emotion. With that, let’s begin with “The Duty of Civic Duty” followed by “Justice, Freedom, Lawlessness, Immorality.” (Note: You can see additional articles at www.civicsandcitizenship.org and clicking “Articles” at the upper right-hand corner, You can also receive the weekly newsletter by subscribing at the very bottom right-hand corner of the main page under “Subscribe.”)
—-Courts and juries are under great public scrutiny these days. The average American does not even know where in the Constitution they can find out information about our justice system. When summoned for jury duty, there is no requirement to have knowledge of the Constitution. I can’t recall even one copy of the Constitution in the jury pool room. It’s the individual citizen’s responsibility to study our founding documents, not let their favorite media host be their teacher while they make lunch in the kitchen. Ahh, but “it’s tedious and difficult,” you might say. Learning how your government works is certainly preferable to having the “jack boots” of government tell you what their rules are today and demand under threat that you follow their orders.
That’s what it takes to live free. There is civic duty involved. When we relinquish our duty to study our founding documents we show disregard for the rule of law. Thus, we willingly become servants to a government system that we oppose. Notice I said “servants,” not “citizens.” Citizenship is special. In Britain, you are not a citizen. You are a British subject. In many countries, you may be called a citizen but you really are a servant to your government. You are not a free person as the word “citizen” connotes.
Our Founders never intended that we be passive observers. Instead, they held debates and discussed their ideas for the new nation publicly. Both the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist Papers ignited a public forum for even the least scholarly person to participate. (Not like today where both sides of an issue aren’t necessarily welcomed, even cen-sored (misspelling intentional).
With the above in mind, here’s a few insights from Federalist 78 (with the help of Mary E. Webster; bibliography below) that may help to understand what the Founders intended in Article III, the Judicial Branch:
Keeping the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches separate from each other as prescribed in the Constitution, “gives the least capacity to annoy and injure them.”
The Executive Branch holds the sword (defense, etc.).
The Legislative Branch controls the purse and regulates the laws we live under.
The Judicial Branch has no influence over the purse or the sword. It does not control our nation’s strength or wealth. Webster translates Federalist 78 to say that the Judiciary has neither force nor will, only judgement.
Publius, through Webster’s translation, continues, “Liberty has nothing to fear from the judiciary alone, but everything to fear from its union with either of the other branches. This union, with its negative effects, would happen if the judiciary were dependent the other branches, despite a nominal and apparent separation.”
The Constitution is superior to laws. When a law contradicts the Constitution, judicial tribunals have a duty to uphold the Constitution.
Judges must remain independent to protect liberty. They cannot be given to public opinion. They must faithfully guard the Constitution.
So, you and I must be engaged in America’s business, not through emotion, but through education and constitutional action. That, I believe, was our Founder’s intent.
“Anyone who desires to be ignorant and free, desires what was and will never be.”- Thomas Jefferson
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship. 🇺🇸
The Federalist Papers In Modern Language, Webster, Mary E.1999, pp. 320-321, Bellevue, Washington: Merrill Press.