Macomb County Bar Foundation Law Day 2021 Winners
The rule of law is the bedrock of American rights and liberties—in times of calm and unrest alike. The 2021 Law Day theme—Advancing the Rule of Law, Now—reminds all of us that we the people share the responsibility to promote the rule of law, defend liberty, and pursue justice.
Elementary Artwork Contest Winners
Middle School Essay Contest Winners
The rule of law is the principle that all individuals are equally accountable to the same laws. It consists of clear and fair practices used to enforce laws, an independent judiciary who interprets the laws, and human rights that are guaranteed for everybody. This sounds like an ideal society, but is this truly the way we live? The sad reality is that creating laws and putting them in place does not always mean that they will be obeyed. There are too many areas to list in this essay where our laws need to be advanced, but here are some basic, obvious examples:
Rich people vs. poor people:
The Constitution states that everyone is to be treated the same, but unfortunately, the poor are not treated the same as the rich. In our society, the poor and less fortunate are overlooked, treated as throwaways, and not well respected. This is most clearly shown in the justice system. Our jails and prisons are overcrowded with poor people, while rich people are nowhere to be seen in the dangerous prison general population. Instead, they get sent to luxury prisons and often get released early before finishing out their sentences. Wealthy people can afford to hire the best teams of defense attorneys, but the poor do not have this luxury. Oftentimes their only hope is an overworked public defender who has neither the time nor the resources to devote to their defense.
Above the law:
Many powerful people who hold important positions, or famous celebrities, are privileged when it comes to the rules of law. Once again, what is written in the rule of law conflicts with this specific reality. There are people who are treated as though they are above the law. Celebrity Khloe Kardashian served only three hours of her 30-day jail sentence because of alleged bomb threats, so the warden released her. Rapper Jay-Z stabbed a man twice in front of a room of witnesses; however, he was only sentenced to three years’ probation after he paid the victim $600,000 to not testify. Justin Bieber received only a two-day probation sentence, anger management classes, five days of community service, and a fine of $80,000 to his former neighbor after he caused $20,000 in property damages by egging his house in a fit of rage. Starstruck, the judge then asked him for his autograph.
The “law” nowadays is applied differently to everybody, depending on who you are and your place in society. The “law” has become an abstract concept as the rule of law declines and weakens. Citizens’ trust in their leaders is deteriorating as conflicting information is being heard and seen. Citizens are becoming incensed about the continued inequality that keeps occurring with no accountability or oversight, leading to civil unrest. This must change; we the people share the obligation of defending our freedoms. A stronger society is needed if our country is going to keep advancing for our future. Fortunately, citizens have begun to pay more attention to the discriminations and are protesting the laws that are being ignored and unheeded, but there is still much more to be done. Our political system will not correct itself nor advance if it is not cherished. Peaceful protests, demonstrations, and motivating others to become active in ending injustices helps with pursing justice. The government must be held accountable and reminded of their essential obligations to citizens. To advance our society, people must become open to personal growth. Social media has been an incredible way for people to connect with local advocacy groups and become involved. Be an advocate for the people on the fringes of society and for those who cannot defend themselves. Set a compelling and strong example for others, take an individual stand, and loudly speak out against injustices. Advocate against censorship to maintain and preserve free speech. Progress is possible and necessary to prevent the further deterioration of our human rights. It does not have to be this way; be a guiding light for others to follow. As a nation, we must keep advancing, not retreating in despair.
Advancing The Rule of Law Now
Life is full of rules. My parents cannot drive too fast when they are on the highway. They have to stop at red lights. I have to wear my seatbelt when I am in a car. These are rules that are made to make all of us more safe. I am twelve years old and do not get to make the rules yet I have to live by the rules that other people make.
I am I seventh grade. This year in school, we have to wear masks to protect us and everyone around us from Covid-19. When we eat lunch, we have to wear plastic shields. Some of the kids in my grade and one of the teachers do not come to school in person every day They are in class via zoom. These are all new rules that were made to keep us safe and healthy. Even though I do not like wearing a mask everywhere I go in school, I have gotten used to it. I accept these new rules because I understand why they were made.
People who make these rules and the law do so because they think what they are doing is right and will help all of us live safe and healthy lives. While we may not like certain rules, we have to follow them. As a student, I can help advance the rule of law by following the rules at home and at school. I understand that one day when I am older and have my own family, I can help make the rules in my house for my family. When I make rules, I will make sure to take into consideration what is best for my family and will listen to their opinions about whether something we are doing is working the best way it can.
The Rule of Law is important to help promote a safe society. If we do not agree with a law, we still have to follow it. We can work to change the law, but in the end, until things change, those are the rules.
When I return to school next year, I hope things will change. I hope I will no longer have to wear a mask. I hope I can go to school with all of my friends and teachers in class with me. I hope we can start going field trips again. I know that by following the rules of the school, I will help make those changes happen next year.
High School Essay Contest Winners
We rise every morning (or at least the mornings that the teacher bothers to turn on the TV for the morning announcements), bleary-eyed and half-asleep, to recite words we’ve said hundreds of times before. It is second nature to us as thirty-one words that have been carefully crafted together roll off our tongues and into the open air. But do we actually think about what we’re saying? Or do the final words “with liberty and justice for all” fade away as we sit back down and go on with our lives? For a lot of us, the latter is the case. And maybe the words fading away wouldn’t matter as much if liberty and justice themselves did not also seem to be disappearing. But in today’s society, the certainty of these principles, along with the rule of law, is constantly challenged, and it’s our responsibility as U.S. citizens to defend and pursue them.
Many instances, especially recently, have solidified the idea that we must always seek justice. Last year, an incident involving a man named George Floyd and a police officer named Derek Chauvin began making headlines. Floyd allegedly paid at a store with a counterfeit bill, and Chauvin, one of the responding officers, knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly ten minutes. Following Floyd’s death, people all over the country began rioting and protesting, calling for an end to police brutality, particularly against black people. Despite the division in the country, people from all different backgrounds and walks of life came together to stand up for their belief in justice and fair treatment. It is this boldness and outspokenness that we must continue to show when oppression occurs. We have to believe that the louder we are, the more other people will listen, and the more they do, the more they will begin to think differently.
When the coronavirus began to spread rapidly last year, so too did anti-Asian hate crimes. These crimes have ranged from spitting and coughing on Asian people to physically attacking them. When these things occur, there is a certain dehumanization of the Asian American community. However, Asian Americans, just like any other community of people, are entitled to fundamental human rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To many, it seems illogical that some people don’t like others based on where they’re from or how their eyes are shaped. As a result, there have been numerous rallies and protests opposing the poor treatment of Asian Americans. Not so coincidentally, this response is similar to what happened in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd. Many people, no matter what their race is, have banded together. It is incredible how we unify ourselves when our morals are tested, and we must continue to do this in the future.
The examples above are clear illustrations that we must not let people abuse their power to hurt others—the essence of the concept of the rule of law. Ultimately, the rule of law is the foundation of American rights and liberties, whether the country is in a time of peace and calm or turmoil and unrest. We must always strive to protect the rule of law, justice, and liberty because they are vital to the success of our country. We must fight for ourselves, and for others, for those who can’t, and with those who can. And although things will not be perfect all the time, we must keep our heads up. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
The Rule of Law Concerning the Rights of the LGBTQ+
In the United States, the rule of law is profoundly outdated when it comes to equality of the LGBTQ+ community. Since the founding of the Constitution, America has prided itself on the adopted ideal that all people are equal in the eyes of the law. Nonetheless, with many people in our legislative council upholding conservative views, the degradation of constitutional rights due to sexual/affectional preference has consistently been an issue in America’s legislation. However, the United States government has slowly been appeasing the discriminatory laws/acts of the past. In order for the advancement of societal thought, there needs to be progression of the rule of law.
In 1958, The Supreme Court was met with a case regarding LGBTQ+ rights and the First Amendment rights, the freedom of speech and press. In 1953, A publisher from Los Angeles printed the first magazine for gay readers, called One: The Homosexual Magazine. Otto Olesen, the Los Angeles Postmaster, announced that he believed the magazine to be “violating obscenity laws” and discontinued the magazine. The magazine took Mr. Olesen to court and lost unanimously in both District court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. They later filed for petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the magazine and nullified the lower court’s decision, saying that press material specifically designed for the gay community was not at all obscene and banning them from publishing would be in violation of the First Amendment. This later became a landmark case for LGBTQ+ rights in America and inspired many others to fight for their civil rights.
Another win for the LGBTQ+ was when the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII of this document ensures the protection of all employees of job applicants from discrimination based off of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Despite this groundbreaking notion, people today are still being fired due to sexual/affectional preference. In 2019, The Supreme Court was presented two cases involving Title VII and discriminatory acts against LGBTQ+ in the workplace. The first case, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, involved a child welfare coordinator getting fired from his job due to “sexual orientation” and “conduct unbecoming of an employee”. After a dismissal in the lower courts, Bostock filed for petition to the Supreme Court. At around the same time, The Supreme Court was also met with a case regarding a transgender funeral home mortician. At the beginning of Aimee Stephens employment, she identified as a male. However, in 2013, Stephens told them funeral homeowners that she commenced transitioning to female. She was later fired due to the owners’ beliefs that Stephens wearing female clothing to work was “disruptive to the healing process of the mourning”. This case also made its way up to Supreme Court. The Justices overturned the lower courts decision saying that “discrimination against employees because of failure to conform to gender stereotypes or the person being transgender is in violation of Title VII”. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a trailblazing tool for the apprehension of LGBTQ+ rights in America.
The advancement of society has to start with the advancement of the law. In order for the statement that “all men are created equal” to be true, we must further advance the rule of law to protect everyone’s constitutional and inalienable rights. Regardless of sexual preference or gender, no person should be denied the right to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. In order to obtain those, the rule of law needs to develop further.
As one of the leading world powers, many countries look to the United States of America as an example. Our country's strength lies within our ability as a society to establish fair and efficient rule of law. Because of the great developments and achievements we have made in America, we tend to be blind to the major issues that have continued throughout history. Racial discrimination within the justice system of the United States has been a major issue engraved into the fabric of our society since the beginning of our nation’s time and will continue to be an issue unless a major change is made. Under the precedent of rule of law, our society can push to make these necessary changes.
African Americans have been put at a disadvantage for centuries, wether it be slavery, the mass incarceration that started when the 15th amendment was ratified and has not stopped since, or the major issue of police brutality in our country. Rule of law, defined as “the authority and influence of law in society, especially when viewed as a constraint on individual and institutional behavior” is something that is open to be interpreted and implemented by American citizens. The implementation of rule of law is absolutely necessary to make crucial changes to the justice system and to begin the process of making America truly equal for all. For example, it has been over a year since Breyonna Taylor, an unarmed black woman, was shot and killed by the police. The officers who killed her have still not been prosecuted. Breyonna Taylor is not the only person who is a victim of police brutality, there are thousands more who still have not had justice served to them. The enforcement of rule of law on the United States justice system would serve as a check on the government, ensuring that officers are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
As American citizens, it is important that we voice our concerns. However, these concerns may not get far unless our elected officials are willing to work with us. As a nation we must hold members of our government accountable and be sure that the rule of law applies to all people fairly, no matter their job, race, or social status. The rule of law being implemented universally throughout the government has the power to make a real change, a change that not only holds these officers accountable, but one that begins to ensure tragic events of police brutality do not happen again.
Our job as a nation is to ensure the safety of the black community and equality throughout the United States. People should not have to live in fear of members of our justice system. Under the precedent of rule of law, changes must be made. Once these changes are made in America, they can be spread worldwide, hopefully leading to a future of equality.