Foundations of a courthouse

July 2, 2013 

(These remarks are excerpted from comments made Monday by Raleigh attorney Robert L. McMillan at a ceremony for lawyers and judges on the occasion of the opening of the new Wake County Justice Center. McMillan, 89, is a lifelong resident of Raleigh and the dean of the Wake County bar. He has practiced law in the Capital City since 1949.)

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This building can become a “temple of justice” or a “chamber of horrors.” Which will it be?

My formula for a “temple of justice” follows:

First, every judge and every prosecutor and every defense attorney must be a person of integrity. Second, every judge and every prosecutor and every defense attorney must be committed to answer a “call” to serve the “rule of law.” For it is a calling.

Third, every judge and every prosecutor must have the courage to stand up for the rule of law in all cases, never to pander to the wishes of the frenzied mob or to the crowd in the cheap seats. Never forget the most famous case ever tried was when Pontius Pilate pandered to the mob and turned over to the crowd an innocent man to be executed.

Each defense attorney must have the courage to represent to the best of his or her ability the most unsavory of clients charged with the most heinous of crimes.

The judges must have the confidence to make tough decisions in a timely fashion.

Prosecutors must have confidence enough to know which cases are frivolous and which cases should be disposed of by lesser pleas.

Defense attorneys must have confidence enough to know when to plead and when to try a case. Anybody can try a case, but the good lawyer knows when to plead.

Lastly, judges prosecutors and defense attorneys need to be versed in the law and to have wisdom and common sense.

In closing, I cite, not for religious purposes, but for practical guidance: “The letter of the law kills. The spirit giveth life.” (Corinthians 3:6).

In the course of many trials, there have been moments of disappointment and moments of elation.

Never, though, have I experienced or observed what I would call a “miscarriage of justice.”

May this ever be so!

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