At our best, lawyers can serve as the bridge between injustice and justice. At our noblest, we are the first responders for the underserved and underprivileged, those who are indigent, don’t have money and can be easily taken advantage of by unscrupulous businesses, landlords and others who hold society’s cards.
But our honorable advocacy would sometimes come to naught if not for the wisdom of our founders in creating a system with a separation of powers and an independent judiciary that provides a thorough, impartial and fair-minded review of all matters. That separation of powers stands at the heart of our system of justice.
To help ensure that young people in our local area fully appreciate and understand these concepts, we at the North Suburban Bar Association proudly presented the fifth annual High School Mock Trial Invitational in January at the Skokie Courthouse.
With nine judges and 25 attorneys taking their time to provide wonderful support in evaluating the competition, while sharing their experience and knowledge, young people from 16 participating high schools got a taste of the positive contributions the legal profession makes to society.
One of the most important and effective ways to encourage the best and brightest of the next generation to enter the legal profession is to share it with them. This tournament, in which students participate in two mock trials, is a fun and educational way to expose young adults to the justice system in the hopes they will pursue a career in the law in the future.
Without the judges and attorneys who volunteered, the competition would not have been possible, but they know how important such events are to the profession and to the wider community.
The mock trial experience underscored for these young people the importance of an independent, experienced judiciary that puts aside preconceived notions and clears its mind to be able to fairly administer justice.
Our system is the fairest in the world because judges are impervious to influences from other branches of government, and they do not render decisions based on what the legislative or executive branches tell them to do.
Judges follow the law and apply it to the facts in an accountable manner because no one branch rules over the other — we don’t live in a monarchy, after all. Smart, dedicate, experienced judges and lawyers are constantly providing checks and balances on the other branches.
One recent example has come when President Donald Trump has nominated judges found to be manifestly unqualified, with not only the nonpartisan American Bar Association but even members of his own party like Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley urging that certain nominations be withdrawn.
The importance of separation of powers also has been underscored in the tussle between the Trump administration and municipalities like Chicago over the sanctuary city issue for undocumented immigrants.
When the executive branch issues an order and three days later the judicial branch says “no” — whatever one thinks about who is right on his particular issue, it’s undeniable that the system of checks and balances, and thus separation of powers, is working as the framers intended.