The society we live in continues to change. Technology advances, scientific discoveries flourish, and human beings learn more. In order to keep up with these changes, the society we live in evolves to further accommodate our needs. One of the needs that have to be addressed by the changing society is the safety and protection of the people. Because of this, we created laws that would govern and guide our actions, to ensure that everyone is kept safe and protected. With the proper enforcement of the law, the society is able to maintain peace and order all throughout. But then again, we return to the idea that the society is constantly changing. Because of this, the law would also have to adapt to these changes. This gives rise to the idea that the law is a living body.
Looking back in history, the American rule of law has initially been based on the establishment of the United States Constitution, which was written and adopted in 1787, more than two centuries ago. One question that comes into mind is that how was it able to last that long, considering that the society, the environment, and the people changes with time? This is answered by the idea that the American legal system is a living, changing, and thriving entity, that it is able to adapt to the changes that happen around it. It is able to answer to the call of the times, constantly changing to cater the growing needs of the people, to serve as a guide to their actions, and reprimand them if the need be. The law is able to evolve, grow, and change, just like any living organism can.
Strictly speaking, the law that governs our lives is printed in black and blue, just ink on paper. This is a collection of ideas that would be the basis of our actions, whether it is right or wrong, as well as the corresponding consequences. The law printed on the books is very ideal as it should be, though it is not followed at all times. This is because the people have different lives and get into different situations. It boils down to a case-to-case basis, wherein the book does is not necessarily followed in the strictest sense. Again, the law in the book is very ideal, while laws in action would have to deal with different people in different situations, so the law in the book may not be strictly enforced (Chemerinsky, 1997).
With the idea that the law is a living body, we are assured that despite the changing times, the law remains objective. It has to respond to the call of the times, incorporate the growing ideas of the people, and eventually correct itself for some of its shortcomings.
When the law was drafted during the time of the American constitution some two hundred years ago, the society has a white male bias, wherein only they were the ones considered as citizens. Females, African and Native Americans were considered minority and were not given equal treat during that time. But as time passes, the law tends to correct itself on the basis of objectivity. It does not subjectively support or favor different groups of people over the other people; instead it chooses to be fair and just with everyone else.
All are equal under the law, as it is truly objective and unbiased in the aspect of design and in practice. The constitution as it evolved through time, had a hand in making the laws of the United States of America objective in the aspect of design, while the Courts made sure that the law is objective in practice, in support of the unbiased design. They also have the responsibility to oversee whatever concerns that they have with the people in the aspect of implementation, and that this law encompasses everyone.
Due process is the principle stating that the government has to recognize and respect all of the legal rights owed to an individual, in accordance to the law of the land, instead of recognizing some or most of the person’s legal rights. In the case of the United States, due process gives the person varying ability that he can exercise against alleged violations by the government, though this can both have positive and negative sides.
Exercising due process ensures that a person can be guaranteed fundamental fairness, justice, and liberty with the judge as an overseer. However, this could also be used to delay the proceedings for some offenders. This could help them buy more time, instead of getting the punishment immediately. The legal proceedings that they are entitled to may delay the enforcement of the punishment, even though they are really guilty of the crime they have committed.
However, with the September 11 attacks, the government established the Patriot Act. This has weakened due process protection, in order for them to avert any more situations that may lead to another “9-11” calamity. With the Patriot Act, some people may not have the right to a hearing before a warrant can be obtained or have a trial that lets one face the attackers, and because of this, a lot of concerns have been raised by the people. They fear that without due process, there could be cases of government tyranny (ACLU, 2006). This could be the case, but initially, it was intended for the protection of the greater many.
The Law is indeed a living body because it can evolve based on the demand of the public, and whatever thought is seen fit. The Patriot Act is a good example of this, as it limited the restrictions offered by the due process in order to cope with the impending terrorists’ problems. But with concerns being raised by the public, it is certain that the law would again have to adjust. We are being governed by a living, changing body of law, and its formation and content would have to depend on the society it governs.
ACLU. (2006). President Bush Signs Un-American Military Commissions Act, ACLU Says New Law Undermines Due Process and the Rule of Law. Retrieved November 25, 2008, from http://www.aclu.org/safefree/detention/27091prs20061017.htm
Chemerinsky, E. (1997). Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies. New York: Aspen Law & Business.