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July 31, 2020

Chicago mayor calls on lawyers to defend rule of law

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot catapulted to national prominence in the last several months for her city’s response to the coronavirus and her fiery interactions with President Trump over perceived executive branch overreach as the Windy City deals with an uptick in gun violence.

Through it all, Lightfoot has been a fierce advocate for the rule of law. She spoke about its importance during these divisive times at a luncheon hosted by the American Bar Association Section of Litigation at the 2020 ABA Virtual Annual Meeting. 

Lawyers have a critical role to play as the nation grapples with a new awareness of longstanding racial justice inequities stemming from the death of George Floyd, a contentious presidential election and the continued spread and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lightfoot said.

Whether it’s in the hyper-politicization in the selection of judges, the brazen refusal to respect the necessity of judicial independence or the mounting evidence that members of law enforcement are abusing their authority, “the rule of law is under assault in America, at every level of the United States’ judicial system,” she said, calling on the nation’s attorneys to respond.

Standing up for the rule of law need not be a partisan issue nor should it be, she said. “No matter your political outlook, we should all stand united around the basic principles that define us as a country – core among which must be respect for the rule of law.”

As respect for the rule of law diminishes, America’s democratic institutions and government are in danger of becoming delegitimized, and the authority of the judiciary will be sapped, Lightfoot warned.

“We have a lot of tough issues we need to tackle in communities all across the country, but we won't get there if people don’t see our roles as legitimate and it’s here that we as lawyers have a special and profound responsibility to use our own unique power to defend this fundamental facet of our great nation.”