Above the law

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore can’t stay out of the news. During the night approximately two years ago, Moore hauled a giant monument of the Ten Commandments into the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building. A federal judge ruled last year that the monument was in violation of the Constitution’s ban on government promotion of religion, and Moore refused to comply. Recently, the eight other justices on the Alabama Supreme Court voted to remove the monument, and Moore has been suspended.

Despite being Alabama’s chief justice, Moore has shown a complete disregard for the legal system in this country.

The lack of respect for laws and judicial rulings is a growing problem. Examples of this can be seen across the country and here in Minnesota.

The Nevada Supreme Court has found its own constitution to be unconstitutional. There was a constitutional provision requiring a two-thirds supermajority to raise taxes, which the court found unconstitutional because it wanted more funding for the state’s education system. The reasoning is amazingly flawed, because there would be plenty of money for education if the state would cut spending in other areas. Legislating from the bench is bad, but rewriting the state constitution from the bench is a new low.

In New Jersey, Sen. Robert Torricelli dropped out of the Senate race 34 days before the 2002 elections. New Jersey state law clearly dictates a candidate must drop out of a race at least 51 days before an election and his replacement must be chosen 48 days before the election. The New Jersey Supreme Court simply ignored the law and allowed a Democratic replacement to be named.

The lack of respect for local gun laws is particularly shocking in Minnesota, where according to state law, guns can be carried by permit holders into public buildings with only a few exceptions. The University is not one of the exceptions, but that didn’t stop the Board of Regents from banning guns on campus. The Minnesota State Fair, which is held on public land, ignored state law and banned guns. The Ramsey County Board and the Hennepin County Board bans guns in county buildings. The list goes on and on.

What happened to this nation’s respect for the law? The consequences of the disrespect reach far. In Nevada, seven people in robes ignored a democratically passed provision and effectively told the voters they do not matter. In New Jersey, candidates do not have to play by the rules. In Minnesota, our own University has taught us if you don’t like a certain law, just ignore it.

Ben Ellingson is a graduate student.

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