Since the Renaissance, the image of lady justice has been depicted wearing a blindfold and “holding a set of scales typically suspended from her left hand, upon which she measures the strengths of a case’s support and opposition. She is also often seen carrying a double-edged sword in her right hand, symbolizing the power of Reason and Justice, which may be wielded either for or against any party.” Her blindness indicates “that justice is (or should be) meted out objectively, without fear or favor, regardless of identity, money, power, or weakness: blind justice and blind impartiality.” In America we frequently adorn courthouses and courtrooms with her image in paint and architecture to infer that laws apply equally to all citizens.1
Then they came near, and spoke before the king concerning the king’s decree; Have you not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which alters not. Daniel 6:12
Thomas Paine took this a step further than the Medes and the Persians. In Paine’s view, not only was the king subject to the law, the law was king.
… in America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other. Thomas Paine in Common Sense
The Founders were students of history and they understood that when those who hold power use the law to further their own designs, the rule of law is fatally undermined and the peoples’ protection against tyranny is compromised. John Adams echoed the thinking of John Locke and Montesquieu when he stipulated in the Massachusetts Constitution, article XXX that it was to be a “government of laws and not of men.”
The Founders also emphasized the importance of the franchise as a bulwark against an overreaching government.
The elective franchise, if guarded as the ark of our safety, will peaceably dissipate all combinations to subvert a Constitution, dictated by the wisdom, and resting on the will of the people. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Bergh, ed. (Washington: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1903), Vol. 10, p. 235.]
The reader can determine if the following examples demonstrate respect for the sanctity of the ballot or equal administration of the law.
The Obama Justice Department is not enforcing a 1993 “Motor Voter” law that requires states to purge their voter rolls of dead people, people who moved away, and felons. According to J. Christian Adams, an election lawyer who served in the Voting Rights Section at the U.S. Department of Justice, this has been mandated by political appointees at the top.
We have no interest in enforcing this provision of the law. It has nothing to do with increasing turnout, and we are just not going to do it. Julie Fernandes Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nov 2009 address to the entire Voting Section of DOJ.
Under the provisions of the law, welfare and motor vehicle offices became voter registration centers. However, the law also requires states to conduct list maintenance to clear ineligible names from voting rolls. At last count, 16 states are in violation.*
The DOJ has been slow, if not entirely negligent in its enforcement of the Military and Overseas Voter Act which requires states to send ballots to military personnel at least 45 days prior to an election to ensure the votes arrive before Election Day deadlines. A 2009 Pew Center report found more than a third of states do not provide military voters stationed abroad enough time to vote or are at high risk of not providing enough time.
The Justice Department also refuses to prosecute the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation in Philadelphia on Election Day, 2008. The incident was caught on tape and widely broadcast. Another political appointee, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez testified before Congress that the case against the night stick wielding Black Panthers was dropped because it was not supported by the facts.
Self-proclaimed “sanctuary cities” are in direct contravention to Federal immigration law, yet there are no lawsuits by the DOJ challenging the legality of these provisions.
So what has the Justice Department decided to focus on? (Disclosure: the writers of this article are proud citizens of Arizona.)
Most recently, it is investigating Arizona for allegedly discriminating against teachers who don’t speak English well enough to teach it. The Arizona Department of Education has been monitoring the English fluency of teachers who instruct English learners. The Department has instructed districts to fire teachers who are not English proficient.
The OJD has taken Arizona to court over SB 1070, Arizona’s anti-illegal-immigration law. The case is well enough known to require no elaboration here.
The Justice Department also filed a civil lawsuit against Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio accusing him and his agency of stonewalling a probe into policing practices that allegedly discriminate against Hispanics. Arpaio has carried out sweeps to detain illegal immigrants and turn them over to federal law enforcement for deportation.
The DOJ’s to-do list also includes a lawsuit against Maricopa Community Colleges for requiring legal noncitizens to provide their green cards before hiring. The government is asking a judge to order the Colleges to pay a civil penalty of $1,100 for each of the 247 non-U.S.-citizen job applicants it says were required to produce the additional documents.
Yet another federal suit against Arizona may be in the wings, judging from a letter to the Arizona Department of Education from federal civil rights officials. The letter says that Arizona is in violation of federal law for misclassifying English Language Learners as proficient.
This may not be a complete account of the Justice Department’s hyperactivity concerning Arizona. The list grows almost daily.
What is needed for the survival of limited government is a renewal of both of the forces described by Madison as controls on government:dependence on the people, in the form of an informed citizenry jealous of its rights and ever vigilant against unconstitutional or otherwise unwarranted exercises of power, and officeholders who take seriously their oaths of office and accept the responsibilities they entail. Cato Institute “Handbook for Congress.
If limited government is to survive, Lady Justice must don her blindfold again and enforce the law impartially, regardless of which administration is in power.