05.04.12

Remarks Of Senator Patrick Leahy At The Vermont Bar Association’s Law Day Event

Remarks As Prepared For Delivery

I am pleased to be here with all of you today to participate in on Vermont’s commemoration of Law Day.

Preserving the rule of law, ensuring access to justice, and maintaining a fair and independent judiciary are issues that I am working on every day in Washington, because they matter to people here in Vermont.  State and federal courts are charged with protecting Vermonters and all Americans from government overreach.  We depend on our courts, and the lawyers like many of you here today who advocate before them, to curb those excesses and protect the rights of every American.  To do that, of course, we need a fair, independent, and functioning judiciary.  Unfortunately, these days, on the federal level, it is becoming harder and harder to achieve just that.

I have spoken often in recent years about my concerns with the rash of divisive, 5-4 decisions coming out of the Supreme Court that have had such a strong impact on the pocketbook issues that impact the daily lives of every Vermont family.  I have been proud of the work that Vermonters have done in advancing proposals to remedy the Court’s terrible decision in the campaign finance case known as Citizens United.  Since shortly after that case was decided, I have been working in Washington to encourage support for immediate remedies to mitigate the impact of that decision.  Vermont is leading the way, and I wish there were more bipartisan support in Washington for what we are trying to accomplish.

Of course, a fair judiciary is one in which justice is neither delayed, nor denied.  We want criminals off the streets, and we want disputes among businesses and consumers resolved.  That requires swift justice.  At the federal level, in too many instances, heavy backlogs in our courts are delaying justice.  In some instances, that means, too, that justice is denied.  Vermont of course is fortunate – with the addition of Judge Christina Reiss a few years ago, Vermont’s federal court is fully staffed, administering justice to those seeking it.  We are fortunate; trial courts in many states across the country are suffering vacancies.  I am working in Washington to remedy this, but this, too, takes bipartisan cooperation. 

The framers of our Constitution designed a government with three, co-equal branches of government, and our courts are instrumental in protecting and promoting the rule of law.  The words carved in Vermont marble above the entrance to the U.S. Supreme Court, “Equal Justice Under Law,” are a constant reminder of the importance of our independent courts.  I am so pleased to be here with you today.  Thank you.

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