The Separation of Power, Framework for Freedom, was the theme of the Law Day celebration hosted Wednesday by the Barry County Bar Association. The ceremony each year recognizes the rule of law in our country and also honors a member of the community with the Liberty Bell Award. This year the award was presented to Sandra Englehart Drummond (see related story).
Keynote speaker, Michigan Supreme Court Justice, Kurtis T Wilder (left) was introduced by Barry County Probate Judge William M Doherty.
Doherty noted Wilder had experience as an attorney in private practice, as a judge in the Washtenaw Trial Count and the Michigan Court of Appeals, before he was appointed to the Supreme Court in May of 2017.
Wilder earned a degree in political science at the University of Michigan and a juris Doctor at U of M Law School, is a member of numerous boards, task forces and committees at the state level and is involved in many civic and philanthropic activities as well.
A champion of specialty courts, Wilder goes over and above what is required of judges by working personally with the individual participants, acting as counselors and social workers, which brings positive results, Doherty said.
In his address, Wilder quoted James Madison, one of the framers of the Constitution, as saying that leaving the legislative, judicial and executive powers in the hands of one… is the very definition of tyranny.
However, most Americans, young and old, have a very limited knowledge of our Constitution and the framework that underpins our government, he said.
The nation’s report card, the national assessment of educational progress, shows that most students have little knowledge of the Constitution. Just one in 10 students has an acceptable knowledge of the three branches of government; three out of four couldn’t name a power given the congress by the Constitution, he said.
“In a national poll of 1,000 citizens who were asked what the supreme law of the land is, 70 percent couldn’t answer correctly that the law of the land is the Constitution, a concept that has protected our rights for nearly 250 years,” Wilder said. Just one third could name the three branches of government.
“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance. A people who need to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives,” Madison wrote.
Michigan’s Constitution includes an explicit reference to the separation of powers, cautioning that a person in one branch of the three, cannot exercise powers belonging to another branch, Wilder said.
“One may ask why we need the separation of powers or even government at all,” he said.
“Madison wrote the nature of humans is precisely the reason we need government...first enable the government to control the governed, then oblige them to control themselves.”
Photos:(upper right) Justice Kurtis Wilder with Hastings City Attorney Stephanie Fekkes (left) and Barry County United Way Executive Director Lani Forbes at the Law Day celebration.
(middle right) MIchigan Supreme Court Justice Kurtis Wilder delivers the keynote address at Law Day.
(lower left) Justice Kurtis Wilder (left) talks with Barry County Probate Judge William Doherty, (middle) and Barry County District Court Judge Michael Schipper before his speech.