Rule of Law remains as important as ever

Challenging times can test our commitment to the principles of a fair and just society.

Recent years have seen what seems to be one crisis after another, including the global pandemic, outcry over systemic racism and distrust in the integrity of our elections.

It seems timely, then, that the American Bar Association selected “Advancing the Rule of Law Now” as the Law Day 2021 theme. The Rule of Law is the principle that no one, regardless of wealth or power, is above the law, that everyone is legally responsible for their actions, and that all people must be treated equally by law.

We’re a nation governed by laws. Courts apply those laws, and must not be influenced by popular opinions of the day. This is crucial because there’s a natural inclination in many to respond to court cases based on their past experiences and personal beliefs. This is especially true today, when technology has changed the way most people consume information. A headline or social-media post likely cannot convey all of what happened in a particular case. But judges must make decisions based on the principle that the same conduct, regardless of the identity of the actor, should have the same consequences. This helps ensure that the result is fair in every case.

This is precisely why the Rule of Law is so vitally important to our way of life and system of justice. If we, as a society, don’t stand firm in our expectation that our leaders, courts and citizens uphold the Rule of Law, regardless of circumstances, then the rights of every member of our community may be compromised.

Every day, our courts, guided by the Rule of Law, work to preserve and protect the highest ideals of our society. Judges must remain impartial and maintain fairness. They must ensure everyone is treated equally, and safeguard our rights to life, liberty and property.

In criminal cases, this means the judge must protect the rights of the accused, who are presumed innocent, and at the same time protect society’s right to justice through a properly-conducted trial.

Not everyone will always agree with the decision of a judge, but through the courts, our society’s dedication to the Rule of Law has given us a legal process with integrity, designed to get the truth in each case.

The Rule of Law has played a vital role in guiding our progress towards a more-fair and just society. But there have also been times when those in power have failed to uphold the Rule of Law, resulting in profound injustices against marginalized people. Building trust in the Rule of Law requires acknowledging those wrongs and committing to righting them.

It takes work on the part of every citizen to maintain a thriving, just and orderly society. For judges, this means deciding cases in accordance with the Rule of Law. One way members of the public can contribute to the Rule of Law is by serving on juries when called to do so.

I encourage everyone to learn more about our system of justice. People who understand why things work the way they do feel more personally empowered, and have more to offer their communities. This is why we have Law Day.


Randal G.B. Valenciano is chief judge of Hawai‘i’s Fifth Judicial Circuit.

  1. USAF Brat May 2, 2021 5:18 am Reply

    Let’s see how judiciopoliticomilitary addresses themes that Hawaii is at war, that of Homeless Kaua’i Camps, and/or HK Independence! Very interesting!

  2. james May 2, 2021 6:05 am Reply

    I agree but I am concerned with the erosion of the right to a jury trial by one’s peers. It’s a cornerstone of our judicial system and is sometimes called “the great equalizer”. Where else can a multi-billion dollar corporation be held accountable by 12 average citizens? It’s really the only thing that keeps these powerful corporations from lying, cheating, committing fraud and destroying our environment to increase their profits. The trend, especially in Republican controlled states, is to restrict jury trial in favor of forced arbitrations which are more expensive and slanted in favor of business interests. We all need to fight to protect our basic right to jury trials or we lose an important check on those who would take advantage in the name of profits.

  3. Scott Bittler May 2, 2021 6:16 am Reply

    I most certainly agree with the statements made and the sentiment expressed in the article written by Judge Valenciano. It is sadly and shamefully no longer the case in our country that no one is above the law. Many of our elected leaders demonstrate on a regular basis that they are not bound by the laws they pass, as they thumb their collective noses to we the public. As law biding citizens it is extremely disheartening to observe those whom we elect give the middle finger to our laws, to us and to the truth.

  4. Keiner May 2, 2021 7:23 am Reply

    The rule of law is meaningless now. Especially for the politically connected. Several states violated the constitution changing election rules outside of the legislative process. Powerful politicians and politically connected criminals break the law with impunity. Hello Hunter Biden and John Kerry. Ron Wyden of Oregon smuggled a pregnant illegal alien across the border. Maxine Waters of California calls for “confrontation” in the streets if she doesn’t like the jury decision in the Chauvin case. Chuck Shumer threatens the Supreme Court if they don’t rule how he wants. Antifa and BLM terrorize cities and county DAs refuse to prosecute. Governors cancel the first amendment and states like ours ignore the second amendment altogether. The rule of law is a lifeless corpse and judges like Valenciano are holding the knives.

    1. calmdown... May 2, 2021 9:37 am Reply

      Keiner, can it really be true that it’s only Democrats who don’t respect the ‘rule of law’ and that the other side of the aisle does?!?! Was there nothing illegal about the January 6th debacle that pointed the finger at the other side? or was it really Antifa driven, as the Right would like you to believe? You throw out every conspiracy theory extant today that about politicians who are Democrats and yet conveniently ignore that the GOP is knee deep in a swamp of ethically challenged behavior and worse both currently and especially in the previous 4 years. Good luck with that kind of cognitive dissonance!

    2. kanOOkdrmr May 3, 2021 7:20 am Reply

      Lol, you forgot the entire
      republican party

  5. manawai May 2, 2021 12:03 pm Reply

    In the past, Valenciano has said, “The Jury determines the facts and I determine the law.” Sounds good except for when his knowledge of the law is lacking and he fails to do his research thereby permitting the jury to deliver decisions that are not lawful. I wonder how many times his court actions have been overturned on appeal.

  6. Ben Dover May 3, 2021 8:29 am Reply

    Judge Valenciano says and that all people must be treated equally by law. Yet he allowed a pond scum off-island attorney special privilege’s in a mortgage foreclosure case, that I ultimately prevailed. His word isn’t worth the value of a day old newspaper and should have been sanctioned by the courts.

  7. Lono May 3, 2021 1:58 pm Reply

    Judge Valenciano,America doesn’t follow the rule of law,only when it serves it’s agenda. It makes a mockery of international jurisprudence and commits crimes against humanity and war crimes with no accountability. It doesn’t even follow its own constitution. It also continues to commit war crimes in the so called state of Hawaii for over 120 years,so please don’t insult my intelligence .

  8. BlairJ May 4, 2021 6:52 am Reply

    Keep in mind also that laws applied by the courts are determined by elected representatives and in some cases directly by voters themselves, all constrained by the Constitution. We must ensure that elections are conducted in a fair and open process, and that all citizens who should be eligible to vote are in fact eligible to do so, are not intimidated from doing so, and are encouraged to so do. The greater participation we have in voting, and the greater respect voters have in the outcome of elections, the more fair and just society we will have.

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