Organizers of an upcoming Connecticut conference say they want to discuss a judiciary increasingly facing criticism.
The Connecticut Bar Association is reviving its Rule of Law Conference to address the pitfalls of these attacks, and discuss what lawyers and judges can do about it.
Jonathan Shapiro, bar president and principal of Middletown-based Shapiro Law Offices, said the media and rule of law of the judiciary have drawn the ire of people from all political persuasions. It’s not accurate, Shapiro said, to put the blame for heated rhetoric solely at the foot of President Donald Trump. Rather, he said, everyone can work on ramping down the heated comments.
“It’s not just Trump, the rule of law is under attack in general,” Shapiro said Monday. “You see it when a judge makes a decision that is unpopular and is attacked by a motivation that is something other than the rule of law. The media also has come under heightened scrutiny. The media should be allowed to investigate our government without fear of retribution.”
Shapiro said: “We are governed by laws and not people. No one is above the law. Lawyers should be the defender of the rule of law. We are the front line of defense and should make sure the law is followed by all people.”
The conference, the first one in five years, will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Dec. 6 in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. It will feature a who’s who in the world of law, media and politics. Those taking part will include Connecticut Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Robinson, at least four Connecticut Appellate Court judges, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, House Minority Leader Themis Klarides and Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent, senior lecturer at Yale University and CNN contributor.
About 250 people are expected to attend.
Shapiro said there will be three simultaneous panels: one focused on politicians and policy, the second on the media’s role in society and the rule of law; and a third featuring a group of high school students. Attorney and judges will take part in each panel.
Each group will report back with recommendations on how to improve the rule of law and lessen the heated rhetoric on all sides. “The goal is to put forth an action plan on how our different professions can safeguard the rule of law,” Shapiro said.
State Rep. Steve Stafstrom Jr., also an attorney with Pullman & Comley, will be a panelist on the politician panel.
“We’ve seen an overall attack on the independence of the judiciary, both at the federal and state levels,” Stafstrom said. “We need to allow our judges to be impartial administrators of justice and be free from political or single-issue litmus tests.”
Stafstrom said the rule of law is coming under attack by “sharpened rhetoric at every level of government.”
The conference is co-sponsored by the CBA and the Connecticut Commission on Women, Children and Seniors.
Participation is free. Those interested in registering should visit ctbar.org/RuleofLaw or call the CBA Member Service Center at (844) 469-2221.