Wednesday, March 4, 2009

336. Happenings at Guma Hustitia

Tomorrow, the state memorial for former Justice Marty W.K. Taylor.
Friday and Saturday, the CNMI high schools' Mock Trial Competition.

Both events serve important purposes.

One--to remember a man who worked for a long time in the legal field and served as Public Defender, an Associate Judge on the Superior Court, and an Associate Justice at the Supreme Court.

He wasn't perfect. He wrote some horrible opinions, like the lower court ruling in Ada vs. Sablan, adhering to the archaic common law that women were merged into their husbands and had no interest in property bought during the marriage, so that the wife in the case would get none of the land purchased during the marriage. The case was overruled on appeal, and it seemed fairly clear that then-Judge Taylor had intentionally written a decision that required action as a means of bringing the matter to a head. Eventually, the Legislature did act to reform the law and passed a marital property act. But it was a risky and unjudicious method to make an outrageously unequal decision to achieve that end.

He also had some more cavalier moments on the bench and in his personal life, some endearing and some offensive. He also made some very good judicial decisions and had a good understanding of the community.

And he had a sense of humor.

What is important now is to realize that our justice is in the hands of men and women who aren't perfect, but who, nonetheless, work at doing what is right. And Marty Taylor, for all his contributions and imperfections, for his effort, for his successes and his failures, should be remembered and honored.

2. Our students are just starting their lessons in life. The mock trial competition gives them an opportunity to learn about how trials are conducted, how testimony is elicited with questions, how tangible objects and documents are introduced and used at trial, and how objections are made to keep out irrelevant and unfair matters.

The competition gives them a chance to see how their individual skills can be used in an adversarial process. The way the competition is set up also forces them to look at both sides of the case, and take turns advocating each side of prosecution and defense.

While some schools act as if the competition is about winning, the better schools actually treat the competition as a tool for teaching. Students get a chance to realize having a lawyer is important for access to justice, at least in our system. And they begin to understand their own strengths and weaknesses in working toward that end.


Pragmatic Plato said...





Saipan Writer said...

Ugh. Thanks for the heads-up.