Why Rule of Law Matters
By Beatrice E. Rangel
Ronald Sullivan, dean of the School of Law or Winthrop House as it is known in crimsonland, has triggered a wave of protest with his decision to participate on Harvey Weinstein’s defense team.
Mr Weinstein, as is well known, is accused of being Hollywood’s sexual predator of choice. Sullivan, the once revered public defendant and criminal lawyer that stepped into courts to represent less privileged defendants, has suddenly turned into a reviling target. Students have staged protests. The press launched headlines questioning his principles and character. Local TV has run Saturday Night Live kind of tirades against Sullivan. Harvard has promptly closed ranks behind Dean Sullivan, but the heated debate promises to last through the beginning of the summer recess.
Arguments against Dean Sullivan all boil down to the truly questionable tenet that Mr Weinstein is guilty no matter what happens in court. The ancillary tenet of course being that a respectable criminal lawyer should not defend a goon like Mr Weinstein. The debate brings into the forefront the essence of American democracy. The United States is “one nation under God with freedom and JUSTICE for all,” as the Pledge of Allegiance says. Indeed, when the Founding Fathers created that innovative entity called America, they aimed at establishing political institutions that would secure freedom and justice forever. Their ancestors the Plymouth Rock Pilgrims came to this land escaping British absolutism and the lack of rule of law for all.
To be sure, only noblemen and bourgeoises enjoyed rule of law in England while the poor and destitute would be denied rights to due process. In America this would change. As Samuel Adams put it,”There shall be one rule of Justice for the rich and the poor; for the favorite in Court, and the Countryman at the Plough.” They thus created three separate powers that in their interactions would establish limits to powers. The judiciary was to guarantee that the rights of every citizen would be observed and respected. The judicial branch of government is thus responsible for assuring that all persons — from governmental actors to private individuals — receive the full benefits of the rule of law.
This was impeccably recorded by Dean Sullivan himself in responding to an interview by the New Yorker. To his mind rich and powerful people like Mr Weinstein “walk into the court with the presumption of guilt, as opposed to the presumption of innocence. And it is important to note that, even with rich defendants, their resources pale in comparison to the resources of the government, which has an entire prosecutorial office and law enforcement at its disposal. Even rich people are at a resource disadvantage walking in, so the popular mythology that you can buy justice really doesn’t apply in the criminal context.”
Mr Weinstein, therefore however great his crimes, deserves to be treated at court with the same procedural parsimony as any other defendant in a U.S. court. And Mr Sullivan believes that it is up to a court of law to pronounce him a criminal and not the talking heads, the MeToo movements, or the Harvard University students. And this is precisely what makes the U.S. stand apart in our hemisphere. South of the Rio Grande, laws are created and managed to either favor the powerful or to resolve conflicts that arise among the elites. Administration of justice is cumbersome, opaque and full of procedural hideouts. As a result, lest you have big pockets it will be practically impossible to get due process.
This state of affairs is responsible for the palpable lack of development that afflicts the countries of Latin America. Absence of Rule of Law not only defines the political character of a society, but it affects development. Indeed, without rule of law people do not own their lives, property or a future. They thus spend their lives taking shortcuts to development. In the realm of economics, they become rent extractors as opposed to wealth creators. Politically societies give up on competitive politics to manage conflict resolution and interest aggregation through corporate institutions with well-established barriers to entry to guarantee that power remains concentrated in elites.
Intellectually, lack of competition dissimulates innovation and both brain and ideas fly to more attractive destinations. In short, countries grow but they fail to develop. Such is the history of Latin America for the last five centuries. And it might continue to be lest rule of law establishes itself in the region. Chile, the nation that has best embraced rule of law in the region, is now reaping the benefits: it is the only developed country in the region!!!
Published by LAHT.com on Monday, March 11th, 2019
*The opinions published herein are the sole responsibility of its author.*
Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O’Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.