It is wonderful to be here today to celebrate Justice O'Connor's 80th birthday and to honor her enormous contribution to our national civic life. Let me acknowledge up front that the title of my essay conveys a certain double meaning. Justice O'Connor has always been a "justice on the ground." Grounded in experience and practical wisdom, she has always been concerned with the practical impact of Supreme Court decisions, and very determined that decisions should be understandable to the public (no footnotes allowed!). Moreover, her current work on "Our Courts" recognizes that maintaining fair, independent courts depends crucially on public understanding of-and confidence in-the role of courts in our legal and political system.
What is true of our courts is also true of the rule of law more broadly. Our civic institutions and processes cannot function effectively without people committed to accountable governance, due process, and resolving disputes peacefully and fairly in ways that protect basic rights. This all-too-human dimension is absolutely vital. For those of us who are scholars and practitioners, it is natural that we focus especially on the institutional "supply side" of the rule of law-strengthening courts, legislatures, executive agencies, and the like. But, there is also a "demand side" that deserves our attention-it involves reaching out to the population, giving people a stake in the law, paying attention to the vulnerable or aggrieved segments of a society, educating the next generation.
These two dimensions of strengthening the rule of law are important not only in our own society, but also in countries that have been wracked by violence and conflict, which is the subject of much of my recent scholarship.
43 Ariz. St. L.J. 427-445
Scholarly Commons Citation
Stromseth, Jane E., "The International Criminal Court and Justice on the Ground" (2011). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. 1677.