Dear NYLS Community,
As we prepare for classes, I would traditionally take this opportunity to offer you New Year’s wishes. And, as I have said to a number of you, it has been my deep hope that this year would bring us all — as a community of families, friends and colleagues, and as a nation — closer together. While I hope you all feel supported and secure in the close-knit fabric of our Law School community, please let the events of today serve as a reminder of how we must always stand together to countermand the threats that we confront.
Our democracy, which is predicated on the rule of law and political accountability, has been tested more in recent times than at any other point in modern history. It has been threatened by those who have waged a sustained assault through the use of reckless rhetoric and pervasive disinformation – culminating in tragic, destructive, and unprecedented events like those that unfolded this afternoon at the Capitol.
Today, Congress gathered in a joint session to affirm the election of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris, as required by the Twelfth Amendment. This is the final, and largely symbolic step, in advance of inaugurating a new President and Vice President on January 20, 2021. Instead of our nation witnessing this final step in our democratic process, we saw a violent political insurrection to block Congress from carrying out its Constitutional duties, and prevent a peaceful transfer of power that has occurred throughout most of our 245-year history. To be clear, this was not a peaceful protest by Americans exercising their First Amendment rights and wanting to be heard by their government; rather it was a direct strike at the very heart of our democratic process to subvert the orderly operation of our Constitution and government.
While a vocal minority, including some elected officials, have seemingly disregarded our core American values, the American majority, including the NYLS community, understand the need to protect and defend the rule of law, and the power and potential of our democratic society. Diversity of thought is fundamental to a liberal democracy. But regardless of our own politics or opinions, our nation must rely on a common understanding of how we nominate and choose our elected representatives, adjudicate disputes over those processes, and accept the results even if they are ones with which we disagree. Preservation of our nation’s founding principles and governing institutions is not negotiable, and attacks and other efforts to subvert them must be condemned and never accepted or normalized.
As a community dedicated to the rule of law, we at NYLS have a solemn responsibility to do our part to uphold our democracy and rule of law. While events like these can shake our faith in our norms and processes, take comfort that the US Congress has reconvened to carry out its Constitutional duties to certify the election results and we will see the inauguration of a new President and Vice President on January 20.
I hope all of us take stock of how we can reinforce the best aspects of our nation, and the rule of law and democratic values – not just in the classroom, or in our profession, but in every part of our lives. Issues related to today’s events and this election cycle will be, as promised, part of a continuing series of dialogues and hosted through Spring Break and likely beyond. As I’ve said before, please take care of yourselves, your families, and each other. Be good and kind to one another, and never hesitate to reach out to me or any member of our faculty, staff, alumni, or your fellow students if you need us.
We will move forward together.