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America’s commitment to the rule of law is the foundation on which our society rests. The administration of George W. Bush has repeatedly demonstrated that it does not share that core commitment to the law and that it views the legal profession with contempt. That is why lawyers of every political stripe who love the law and its central role in American life should repudiate this administration and vote for the John Kerry/John Edwards ticket. It is ironic that this administration should be so hostile to lawyers since the Bush presidency was secured through the legal process rather than the electoral process. Nevertheless, Bush’s disdain for the legal profession was exhibited from the start. When Bush selected his attorney general, he chose not a distinguished leader of the bar with the stature and experience appropriate to the position, but an undistinguished politician who could not win against a deceased opponent. The choice of John Ashcroft, who was known as an extreme conservative, was a stick in the eye of the American electorate from a president who claimed he would unite rather than divide the country. The hostility toward lawyers is manifest in much of the administration’s rhetoric and policy. Lawyers are blamed for numerous ills including the high cost of medical care and even the shortage of flu vaccine. The administration’s attack on John Edwards for being extraordinarily successful in vindicating the rights of injured consumers is part of an ongoing effort to turn the phrase “trial lawyer” into a derogatory epithet. DISREGARD FOR THE LAW It is since Sept. 11, 2001, however, that the administration has most clearly engaged in brazen disregard of the law. Lawyers of every political affiliation should be deeply disturbed that this administration pursued policies that condoned the torture of enemy prisoners in violation of international treaties to which we are signatories. It does not take much imagination to see the connection between that policy decision and the picture of the hooded prisoner at Abu Ghraib that has become a lightning rod for Muslim hatred of the United States. The decision by Bush to deny all prisoners at Guant�namo Bay the right to a hearing on their status is yet another example of utter disregard for the rule of law. Even after these rights were reaffirmed by the Supreme Court, it took another court ruling to prohibit the government from listening in to the confidential communications between the detainees and their lawyers. Meanwhile, at home, while the Ashcroft Justice Department was fighting to deny an American citizen any opportunity to challenge his detention in court on the grounds that the facts had to be kept secret to preserve our national security, the department still saw fit to broadcast its unproven allegations to the world in a press conference. As lawyers, we have a particular reverence for the Constitution as a bulwark against erosion of people’s rights and an enduring statement of the relationship between the federal government and the states and their citizens. Even conservative lawyers should be taken aback by the president’s transparent attempt to rally his conservative base by proposing a constitutional amendment that would control how states regulate marriage, a matter particularly and historically entrusted to the states. Our next president will shape the legal landscape in our country for the next half-century through his appointments to the Supreme Court. Lawyers should be concerned about the administration’s record of judicial appointments to date and about what those choices tell us about who will be nominated for the high court. Lawyers should be concerned about the circumvention of the democratic process to appoint Charles Pickering Sr. and William Pryor Jr. to federal circuit court positions through recess appointments and the elevation of Jay Bybee, author of the memorandum eschewing the Geneva Conventions, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. WHAT LAWYERS UNDERSTAND Lawyers understand the power of words. Lawyers should feel that if a pre-emptive war and more than 1,000 American deaths were premised upon an “imminent” threat, our president should not assert later with a shrug that a “gathering” threat was sufficient justification. Lawyers are trained to think through problems, and they are forced in their schooling to confront not only the arguments for their position but also the arguments against it. With so much at stake, they should seek a president with those habits of mind. Lawyers � and in particular, lawyers who began as prosecutors as we did � understand that one gathers the facts first and then develops the arguments that flow from the facts. Lawyers then should be justifiably offended by an administration that made a decision to go to war first, and then offered up one ex post facto rationale after another as each proved untenable. John Kerry and John Edwards, both lawyers, understand and respect the legal process. They understand that the fight against terrorism must be waged vigorously while maintaining the utmost vigilance to protect our civil rights. They understand that a president who purports to spread democracy abroad must embrace it at home. They understand that if our rights are eroded, if legitimate dissent is squelched, we will, as one historian put it, “hate ourselves in the morning.” Lawyers value truth. They value leaders with integrity and good judgment, and with the humility and introspection necessary to admit and learn from their own mistakes. Lawyers want a leader who understands that our freedom depends upon openness, the ability to question, and access to fair and impartial courts. Lawyers should vote for John Kerry. Alan I. Baron, a D.C. lawyer in private practice, is head of D.C. Lawyers for Kerry-Edwards. Amy Berman Jackson is a partner in the D.C. firm of Trout & Richards. The views expressed are their own and not necessarily the views of their law firms or of the Kerry-Edwards campaign.

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