Law in Contemporary Society
Judge Day opens the conversation by lamenting the decline of "civility" in American society. I understood "civility" as a cohesive and perhaps moderating form of social control that exists to varying degrees amongst citizens, and may find expression in political institutions. Absent this social cohesion, politicians are left to vie for power by activating sub-national identity-based interest groups. Almost immediately, she uses the language of warfare to describe this activity.

Expanding the metaphor, Judge Day explains that the United States is a nation of civil wars, in which civil activity is limited to the assertion of rights against the government and fellow citizens . This situation is the result of the political will to attain and retain power by expanding or contracting the rights of certain groups as a form of "campaigning."

Judge Day feels, or at least has reason to feel, under siege in this context. (She and the narrator have just finished discussing a draft of a report concerning political criticism of federal court decisions when the conversation begins.) As a federal judge, she is called upon to adjudicate these rights according to the laws in place.

She recognizes that the situation is untenable because law is weak. She suggests that a nation in which "civility" has been replaced by a series of judicially mediated civil wars cannot be resilient in any meaningful sense, as any external shock will simply create more legally recognizable claims against the government. it follows that an extreme shock might overpower the controlling force of law.

These fears were borne out in the years following the actual destruction of the World Trade Center Buildings to some extent. The actual breakdown that Day might have envisioned did not occur, however, because Americans cohered against a perceived external threat.

I may be reading into Judge Day's brief mention of the World Trade Center Bombing a bit too much. However, the issues raised echo some of the controversies surrounding the litigation that followed the WTC bombing.

-- PatrickOConnor - 03 Apr 2012


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r2 - 22 Jan 2013 - 19:58:15 - IanSullivan
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