Do Young People Understand the Creation of the Law?

When looking at our three branches of government in America this electoral season, the role, place and stature of the executive, legislative and judicial branches should be well studied, Federal, State and Local. All citizens and residents, of all ages, should know the names of our governing officials from all three branches and their role in our community.

In guiding our young people, we need to go beyond a mention or two of the name of our Congressperson or the name of the Mayor or a member of our City Council. Children in this the second decade of our 21st century are truly knowledgeable of current events in the modern era, more so than ever in America’s history. They have seen the most recent national elections and campaigns. The know by first name Barack, Bernie, Bill, Colin, Condoleezza, Eric, George Sr., George W., Hillary, Loretta, Madeleine, and Mitt. They know that the current President is Donald and that the next might be Joe III.

Yet, we must share with them more than this. Especially, our young people need an acknowledgment and appreciation of the scholarship of the judiciary.  Popular understanding of our judicial system and its stewards guarantees the freedom of thought of those who appear before them as well as of our nation. Judicial decision making in the public interest benefits from a knowledgeable public.

A truly fundamental common law subject as the creation of a contract may provide a basis for an objective discussion of how we learn from our Judges and so gain an equal understanding of the three branches of government in America. Contract law is of general interest, noncontroversial and permits discussion of the art of the judiciary.

An example is taken from a legal opinion written by Federal Magistrate Judge Michael Newman of the Southern District of Ohio. Judge Newman is the recent President of the Federal Bar Association. His term in private legal practice prior to the bench was as a law firm Partner in Cincinnati and was lengthy and well accomplished.

In Traton News LLC v. Traton Corp., No. 3:11-cv-435, 914 F. Supp. 2d 901, (S.D. Ohio 2012), Judge Newman expressly acknowledged that the case posed “an issue of first impression in [his] Court.” 914 F. Supp. 2d at 909. Namely, the question newly presented was whether a person using the Internet and who accesses a certain website, in doing so, agrees to the Terms and Conditions set forth in the website as specified by the Terms and Conditions. And, would this create a binding agreement that would support personal jurisdiction pursuant to the governing Terms and Conditions? Judge Newman found that this did not create a contract for want of consideration. In this instance, the Internet user accessing the website did not receive a benefit supporting the existence of a bilateral contractual obligation.

We must appreciate such judicial thought and show such appreciation with greater encouragement of participation in community and government discussion? Popular understanding that Judges impart wisdom when new questions arise is needed. Civil peace and understanding require that young people learn American government at a young age.

In Cincinnati, do young teenagers understand the theory of the judiciary and its role in fashioning our common law from our amorphous popular thinking? In theory, Judges turn custom into law, and in fashioning the law, they educate our customs. The scholars of William Blackstone argue that our customs may only become common law if their tenets conform to our sense of natural reason and justice. Do we teach this to our young people so that they may grow up to understand an increasingly more complex nation, with a far more applicable hierarchy of institutions of higher education in that all of us within the 50 states must defer to the established hierarchy of universities and colleges? The young in turn may guide their parents in an increased understanding of the modern world and a respect for the judiciary.

The American public must be taught to defer to the constitutional function of the judiciary: the administration of legal decision making as to residents, citizens and government. With the fragile delicacy of Marbury v. Madison in its creation of our doctrine of judicial review, all within our nation must respect the separate, equitable power of the American Judiciary as to the executive and legislative branches of government. Popular understanding of our popular self-interest, in a country whose government force and power are derived and ensured only as individuals understand our principles of government, will only be stronger.

Lori Gayle Nuckolls, Esq.

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