Beyond what we learn in school, many of us likely give little thought to the Constitution and the rights and protections it afford us.
We learn in school about how the Constitution established our three branches of government, the judicial, executive and legislative, and how the framers of this pioneering document designed a system of checks and balances so that no branch could exert unequal power over another.
The enactment of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787 is one of the most important and influential events in modern history. Our national constitution has served as a model and a symbol or democracy not only for our country, but for emerging democracies around the world.
Today, we take for granted the principals embedded in our Constitution, such as the separation of branches of government, freedom or religion and speech and protection against self incrimination.
The judicial article of the state and federal constitutions entrusts the Judiciary with the fair and just resolution of disputes to preserve the rule of law and to protect the rights and liberties guaranteed by both constitutions and laws of the nation and New Jersey.
In his acceptance speech for the Republican party nomination for a U.S. Senate seat for Illinois, Abraham Lincoln reflected on the growing conflict between the north and the south, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided.”
If we apply Lincoln’s metaphor of the Constitution being a house, we can say our Constitution has withstood the test of time because of the wisdom of the architects who designed the document, the outstanding workmanship of many of the general contractors who were assigned the responsibility of implementing the vision of the framers, and lastly, because of the willingness of the American people to accept the document as providing important and essential rights, privileges, duties and responsibility for all its citizens.
Constitution Day is celebrated nationally on Sept. 17, but it’s important that we take time everyday to reflect on this revolutionary document and its importance on our lives.
If not for the Constitution, the accused would be judged guilty instead of a jury of his peers weighing his fate. Those injured at the hands of another would not be compensated for their pain and suffering. And neighbors feuding over a barking dog might take matters into their own hands.
I urge you to take some time to reflect on the constitutional rights and protections we enjoy and to learn more about the New Jersey Judiciary. Visit a courtroom, read our booklet The New Jersey Courts A Guide to the Judicial Process, which is available here and at courthouses across the state, and explore the updated kid’s section of our website here.