WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — With the country still reeling from the violent riots on capitol hill last week, law school leaders here at home are taking a stand.
Tuesday, the head of Wake Forest University’s law program, joining in on a collaborative statement calling the acts an “assault on our democracy and the rule of law.”
What is being called an insurrection on Capitol Hill has 160 law school deans, including those from Wake Forest, Elon and UNC Chapel Hill, using their voices and releasing this statement that reads in part:
“The violent attack on the Capitol was an assault on our democracy and the rule of law,” reads the statement. “The effort to disrupt the certification of a free and fair election was a betrayal of the core values that undergird our Constitution. Lives were lost, the seat of our democracy was desecrated, and our country was shamed.
“Many lawyers and judges worked honestly and in good faith, often in the face of considerable political pressure, to ensure the 2020 election was free and fair. However, we recognize with dismay and sorrow that some lawyers challenged the outcome of the election with claims that they did not support with facts or evidence. This betrayed the values of our profession.”
For Wake Forest Dean Jane Aiken, she said lawyers should be playing an important role at this time.
“The best lawyers, when they see wrong, they speak up,” Aiken said.
For Aiken, the matter hits home as this election allowed her to serve as a Chief Judge at a local precinct.
“Watching this happen where people really felt free to say things that I knew were not true after really feeling like, ‘OK I’m in this,’” she said. “I believe in elections, and I’ve seen them go into play, and I’ve seen the care that people give, was really upsetting.”
She said she along with the thousands of others at precincts across the county had to be trained for their positions and had an equal number of Democrats and Republicans serving as poll watchers.
“Every time someone would come, and they weren’t on the roles, they would have to come to me, and there would be people there, standing from the Democratic watchers and the Republican watchers to make sure I did that in a considered fashion, the way you’re supposed to do it,” Aiken said.
So, when she saw other lawyers at the Supreme Court level trying to strike down the results of the election, it was something she had to speak up about.
“It was particularly upsetting for me as a dean because I’m in the business of training lawyers to have integrity, and if they come out of my law school thinking that that’s how you can act, then I have really dissevered the community and my students.”
The letter goes on to say they are trying to restore the faith in the rule of law and the ideals of the legal profession
For Aiken, she adds it’s important that her students understand that enforcing the law is part of their jobs, regardless of personal political views.
“The violation against democracy was not speaking up and saying the election was stolen. It was saying, ‘I’m going to make it impossible for this government to operate as a democracy and take on the electoral vote and decide who’s president,’” Aiken said.
The deans conclude with a call to action that reads:
“As legal educators and lawyers ourselves, we must redouble our efforts to restore faith in the rule of law and the ideals of the legal profession. We have enormous faith in the law’s enduring values and in our students, who will soon lead this profession. We call upon all members of the legal profession to join us in the vital work ahead.”
She’s hoping her students take away one thing.
“We not only have an obligation to our clients; we have an obligation to justice, and we have an obligation to our community,” Aiken said.
This letter was signed by almost every law school dean in the United States.
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