A good definition of a lawyer is a person who can pick a single grain of pepper from a salt shaker wearing boxing gloves. Such manual dexterity symbolizes the intellectual gymnastics that attorneys must exhibit on behalf of some of their clients.
So it is that legal representatives for Moral Monday protesters are no doubt planning to make persuasive arguments that their clients are not guilty of the very offenses that the accused willingly and blatantly committed for the very purpose of being arrested.
Following the marching orders of the N.C. chapter of the NAACP and under the guidance of the Rev. William Barber, over 900 protesters agreed to be arrested and, because police do not arrest on demand, committed offenses such as failing to disperse. It is probably worth mentioning that few North Carolinians have accumulated as many frequent traveler miles in the paddy wagon as Barber.
The rule of law distinguishes civilized societies from barbarism, and there is a correlation between quality of life and respect of the rule of law among countries. Compare Switzerland to Iraq, if you will.
One tenet of the rule of law is that citizens are to obey all laws even if they do not agree with some or all of their provisions. Another tenet is that the rule applies to political leaders even if it is politically inconvenient for them to obey or enforce the law.
Unfortunately, Americans have witnessed a significant degradation in the respect for the rule of law among our political leadership. The president and the Department of Justice have gone to great lengths to circumvent many of our laws, including the Defense of Marriage Act and much of our immigration laws. They apparently missed the class in law school where I learned that the best way to get rid of a poor law is to enforce it strictly and let the consequences act upon the political process.
What were the Moral Monday protests about? What were the ends that justified illegal means in the minds of those arrested? The protesters disagreed mostly with changes to our voting laws, especially the requirement that voters show photo IDs.
The new laws are as partisan as the old laws were. It is called politics. Does anyone believe that politicians would ever write voting laws that favor their opponents? As of Monday, the protesters can count on the U.S. Department of Justice to support their side as it brings a lawsuit against laws enacted by the N.C. legislature. The department shares the same partisan goals but is using legal means.
Instead of making sweetheart deals with the accused, the Wake County district attorney should tally up the extra costs incurred by the state for added security, arrests and processing charges, divide the total by the number of people arrested and make an offer to each accused to plead guilty to one count and pay a fine representing their proportionate share of those expenditures.
Those who would turn down the offer, plead not guilty and go to trial would know that they could face much higher fines for the additional cost of requiring the state to prove the offenses they committed with prideful purpose. It is implicit with the obligation to obey the law that those who choose to disobey must pay a price for their actions.
I am in no way suggesting that the Moral Monday protesters and their sponsors do not have the right to protest and demonstrate their objections to any laws passed by the McCrory administration. I also recognize that in the debate over political ideas, theater is important, and the NAACP undoubtedly is looking to the next election and rallying its supporters to the cause. That is completely appropriate but can and must be done only within the law.
If we were to accept that groups of citizens are allowed to ignore the laws they find inconvenient, how will the state function when law-abiding taxpayers elect to opt out of paying income taxes?
Switzerland or Iraq? An easy choice.
Contributing columnist Marc Landry can be reached at email@example.com.