Affirming our Commitment to the Rule of Law
The following statement was issued by Dean Laura Rosenbury on January 7, 2021. Dean Rosenbury has also joined nearly 160 deans from law schools nationwide in a statement posted here.
Dear UF Law Community,
The rule of law has triumphed. Despite a violent attack on the Capitol, Congress ultimately completed the counting of the Electoral College votes, and Vice President Mike Pence announced that President-elect Joe Biden won the presidency. Yet the transfer of power was far from peaceful, threatening our great national experiment: that we are a people ruled neither by strength nor standing but, instead, ruled by law.
I condemn yesterday’s assault on our democracy, and I ask each of you to remember the words inscribed on the wall in our Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom: “No man is above the law.” Our alumnus Chesterfield Smith uttered these words in his role as President of the American Bar Association at a press conference called to condemn President Nixon’s order to fire the Special Prosecutor of the Watergate Investigation. Smith’s written statement went further, calling Nixon’s actions “an assault of wholly unprecedented dimensions on the very heart of the administration of justice.” As Professor Mary Adkins writes in her recent biography of Smith, all of these words from October 21, 1973, were absolutely consequential: “Until then, no mainstream organization had made such a bold statement” about Nixon’s attempts to thwart the rule of law.
If Smith were alive today, I imagine he would use those very same words – “an assault of wholly unprecedented dimensions on the very heart of the administration of justice” – to describe yesterday’s attack on the Capitol. And he would join me in urging all of us to uphold our commitment to the rule of law.
The world needs lawyers and law students now more than ever. We must affirm and bolster the rule of law by strengthening our institutions, promoting access to justice, and rebuilding our capacity for reasoned debate as well as for peaceful assembly and protest. We must also continue to condemn the discriminatory applications of law enforcement that seemed to permit yesterday’s violence.
Much work remains, but I have hope because of our collective voices. Our shared commitment to the rule of law both brings us together and provides us with a powerful tool for securing the future of our nation. As we prepare to begin a new semester, may we all affirm our vital role in defending the Constitution, promoting the rule of law, and making our society more just.
Laura Ann Rosenbury
Dean and Levin, Mabie & Levin Professor of Law