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Bar News - February 13, 2009

John Hutson: Champion of the Rule of Law

John Hutson

At the request of President Barack Obama, John Hutson, dean of Franklin Pierce Law School, attended the signing of the executive order issued Jan. 22 closing the Guantanamo Bay camp for alleged terrorist detainees.

In his speech at the Awards luncheon at the Bar’s Midyear Meeting on Jan. 23, Hutson, who has often spoken out about the abuse of the rule of law regarding prisoners of war during the Bush administration, said, "It’s absolutely clear how determined he [Obama] is that there be a new beginning."

At the signing, said Hutson, most of the conversation revolved around the law—even though there were only three lawyers present. "The law is the floor and ceiling of society," he said.

"There were other professions represented," he went on, "and if a certain profession falls into disrepute, society can rise above it, can be better than any one profession—except the law."

"A society can’t be better than its laws," he said.

Hutson said that in recent years, lawyers have proved to be more important than anyone might have thought, and the nation has seen examples of both great and bad "lawyering."

"Some lawyers have figured out ways to get around the law; they’ve figured out how to make black look white, how to make wrong look right."

"Maybe we should change the name of the law school to the ‘lawyers’ school.’ We can teach students the law," mused Hutson, "but maybe what we need to do is teach them how to be lawyers—and we who are already in the profession can do that by our example and by our mentoring."

Hutson emphasized four qualities that he considers to be the core values of the profession: integrity, dedication, expertise and civility.

"You see," he said, "Obama did what he did because it was the right thing to do; and happily, it was also the legal thing to do."

Bringing it down to a local level, Hutson continued, "We have a great advantage here in NH: all systems are in place to be great, to be the best in the nation for the rule of law and the profession of law.

"We have a chief justice who wants equal access to justice for the indigent, a Bar Association and Foundation that supports that vision—and public interest is strong among lawyers; their interest supports the vision, too."

Hutson believes that New Hampshire can be the best state in the Union for both lawyers and clients.

But remember, Hutson told his listeners, the profession needs to be looked after, to be husbanded, in order to fulfill its role in society. "When the executive takes us down the wrong path, the courts must bring us back," he said.



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