Friday, May 31, 2013

Paul Anderson – He Saw Tomorrow’s America

Today, Minnesota will retire another truly outstanding Supreme Court Justice, Paul H. Anderson.  By today’s standards, he was a long termer (19 years) and an impact player.

I was invited to speak at his ceremony which was held some two weeks ago.  Unfortunately, due to a back problem I was unable to attend.

What follows was generated from notes I prepared in keeping with Paul’s request that they not be flowery.

Paul Anderson’s legal career was exemplified by his commitment to his favorite phrase “majesty of law”.  He saw the application of law beyond the normalcy of process.  Rather, majesty implied the greatness and dignity of law.

That may well appear to be a lofty and acceptable ideal but it has been under continuous attack from those who want to use the power of government for their own economic and narrow political purposes.

The reality is that the majesty of law can only prevail when jurists and political leaders are truly committed to strengthen and further democracy.  They must have the resolve and unshakeable courage to stand against what may well be the prevailing opinion of today in order to protect the rights of dissent.

We saw so clearly evidence of this last year with the constitutional amendment designed to limit access and fairness under the guise of preventing fraud.  Although voters soundly rejected the proposal, the struggle for full voting rights continues.  In some states last year, the courts put an end to some obvious abuses while in others, they did not.

But, ultimately, the majesty of law prevailed - thanks in part to courageous jurists such as Alan Page and Paul Anderson whose dissent provided a powerful message to the voting public.  In the final analysis, the true achievement was with the people – the people who listened and understood that the real meaning of democracy was its ability to look beyond its European heritage and welcome a newer America; an America that is more global, more representative.

They not only smashed down the voter ID amendment here in Minnesota but thousands and thousands of voters in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida stood in line for up to 6 to 9 hours in order to vote.  Now that’s commitment.

They so much wanted to participate in the simple and basic ceremony of voting.  And no barrier was high enough or sturdy enough to prevent this emerging coalition from participating.

At that moment, they held hands with our Founding Fathers, with Abraham Lincoln, and with the movers behind the historic 1964 Civil Rights Act.  And they loudly proclaimed the majesty of law.

In so many ways, their actions are a testimony to those outstanding jurists such as Paul Anderson who continuously protected and enhanced the application of democracy.  He always brought out the best in us and now leaves us with a legacy and personal commitment to the “majesty of law.”

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