Friday, February 05, 2016

Don't Be Intimidated If You're Not a Lawyer

As I mentioned in my previous post, the judicial branch plays a major role in setting public policy.  Its duty is to interpret laws, handle disputes between parties, and apply appropriate punishments for individuals who break the law.  As an advocate, you may need to interact with this branch when its role comes into play on a particular issue you’re concerned about. 
At first glance, it may seem as though an individual advocate might not have a tremendous role to play with either the state or federal court system -- except to avoid it if at all possible. After all, everyone knows that you need to be a lawyer, or know a great deal about the law, to make effective arguments in a court case.
Wise advocates, however, will step back and think carefully about other potential points of access into this branch. While the average citizen may not be able to prepare a legal case that would sway a judge, this does not mean that we cannot have an impact. In fact, citizen advocates can dramatically alter the judicial environment and, as a result, the decisions made through this branch of government. How? Here are just a few examples:
Advocate for or against the confirmation of a particular judge: As an example, many states and the federal Supreme Court place the power of appointing and confirming the justices of the court in the hands of the legislature and/or Governor. And who are the legislature and Governor responsible to? That’s right, their constituents. Utilizing your influence as a voter with those who will eventually vote to confirm or deny a specific justice can have a dramatic impact on the ultimate shape of the court.
Participate in an election campaign in support or opposition to a judge: Many states and counties hold elections for judicial positions. As voters, citizens can play a role in determining whether a particular person will or will not be elected.
Assist non-profits representing your interests at the courts: Many non-profit organizations at the state and federal level become involved in court cases as part of their efforts to further their cause. Becoming involved with these organizations in this type of work can have a direct impact on what decisions come out of the courts.
The moral of this story is don’t be intimidated if you’re not a lawyer when it comes to dealing with the judicial branch.  Focus on your citizen power in those ways and on the avenues where you are most likely to make a difference- whether through the legislature, elections, or non-profits.  You might be surprised how much of a difference you can make.

  - Written by Stephanie Vance, Advocacy Guru

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