Dear Friends –
As a leader of an institution devoted to the rule of law and dedicated to peaceful, empirically grounded deliberation on legal and policy matters – and indeed simply as an American and a lover of ordered liberty – I am deeply dismayed and angered by the violent attack on the seat and symbol of American government we witnessed today. Robust and vigorous political debate, part and parcel of hotly contested elections, is the lifeblood of self-government; violence and forceable attempts to subvert duly ascertained election outcomes constitute a deadly poison that must not be allowed to persist in the body politic.
People disappointed by election results can, of course, advance actual, admissible, reliable evidence – if they have it – to prove allegations of election irregularities to seek redress in court. But if there is one thing the last two months has shown us, it is that our profession – that of lawyers and judges – is one where evidence and proof, and not simply accusations or speculations, are what matter. In uniformly upholding the November election results in dozens and dozens of court cases across the country, jurists – state and federal, elected and appointed, Democrat and Republican – have no doubt done their part in helping preserve democracy by respecting the will of the voters. And in insisting that challengers put forth plausible and timely legal theories and show actual proof of a stolen election, lawyers and judges helping deciding these cases have also been protecting democracy in a much more fundamental way: responsible members of our profession are not simply upholding a fair electoral process and outcome but, more importantly, they are modeling the idea that facts exist, that they can be proven or disproven, and that they matter. I hope and pray that leaders of our legislative and executive branches can learn from and follow the lead of the judiciary, which in today’s world may not be simply the “least dangerous” branch, but in fact the most propitious one.
About a month ago, I wrote, along with a College of Law faculty colleague, that “at a time when many of our institutions have fallen into disfavor among ordinary Americans, we are proud. . . . as a law dean and a law professor, to be training students for a profession that might be democracy’s last best hope.” As outraged as we all should be over today’s events – and we should be outraged by all those responsible for the violence – I hope we also remember that we are part of institution that must, and that can, help improve things.
Vikram David Amar
Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law