Do You Know What The “Rule of Law” Means?

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Do You Know What The “Rule of Law” Means?

What is the Rule of Law?  It is well-regarded as the most important part of democracy.  Britannica says that the rule of law is:

the mechanism, process, institution, practice, or norm that supports the equality of all citizens before the law, secures a nonarbitrary form of government, and more generally prevents the arbitrary use of power.  Arbitrariness is typical of various forms of despotism, absolutism, authoritarianism, and totalitarianism.  Despotic governments include even highly institutionalized forms of rule in which the entity at the apex of the power structure (such as a king, a junta, or a party committee) is capable of acting without the constraint of law when it wishes to do so.

Ideas about the rule of law have been central to political and legal thought since at least the 4th century BC, when Aristotle distinguished “the rule of law” from “that of any individual.”  In the 18th century the French political philosopher Montesquieu elaborated a doctrine of the rule of law that contrasted the legitimate authority of monarchs with the caprice of despots….

This applies to businesses as much as individuals and governmental entities.  It is not just lawyers, the courts or civic organizations’ obligations to protect the Rule of Law.  Businesses must do so too.  Enforcement of contract rights, protection of intellectual property (think trademarks and patents) and fair trade are afforded to businesses based on the Rule of Law.  The Rule of Law is the foundation that supports the pillars of democracy and freedom.  Laws, institutions, and community commitment seek just laws, open and fair government and impartial dispute resolution.  Lawyers and the legal profession in general lead in maintaining the Rule of Law, however, businesses and individuals play a part in this too.

The World Justice Project says that the Rule of Law is in decline in the U.S.  It measures this by review of the following factors: Constraints on Government Powers; Absence of Corruption; Open Government; Fundamental Rights; Order and Security; Regulatory Enforcement; Civil Justice; Criminal Justice; and Informal Justice.  Part of the decline is because of the public not being informed and levels of civic engagement are in decline.  Alarmingly, Professor Austin Sarat, a professor of jurisprudence at Amherst College, found that “among millennials, support for the Rule of Law is even lower than it has been in previous generations: Only 33 percent of people who were born after 1980 believe it is ‘essential to live in a democracy,’ compared to 72 percent of people born before World War II.”  There is an urgent need to educate about our democracy, and at the heart of our democracy, the Rule of Law.

Our law firm partner Dawn Coulson has served for years as a judge for authoritative papers written by law school students who submit their Rule of Law analysis for consideration of scholarships given by Ken Petrulis and the Beverly Hills Bar Association.  You can see Ken’s definition of the Rule of Law here.

Epps & Coulson, LLP and its lawyers and staff are keenly tuned to protecting the Rule of Law.  If you have questions please contact Dawn at:

Attorneys admitted to practice in California, New York, Colorado, Texas, and Oregon

Information contained in this Memo is intended for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.  It is likely considered advertising.  Epps & Coulson, LLP encourages you to call to discuss these matters as they apply to you or your business.