June 28, 2021
1) Why is a democracy commitment needed?
At this moment in our history, the preservation of our democracy is at stake. This is not hyperbole; it is the view of legal experts and historians who are writing with alarm about threats to our core institutions. It is also the view of highly respected sources of international data.
For example, the World Justice Project annually ranks countries around the globe according to critical Rule of Law Factors. In its 2021 Rule of Law Index, the United States declined in its standing. Similarly, in the 2021 Global State of Democracy Report issued by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, the United States was identified as a democracy that is “backsliding.” The Report stated that the U.S. has “experienced gradual but significant weakening of Checks on Government and Civil Liberties, such as Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Association and Assembly, over time.” The Report further noted that the U.S. has fallen victim to “authoritarian tendencies.”
2) What is the goal of the Democracy Commitment?
The goal of this effort is to recruit lawyers throughout the country, including in law firms, corporate law departments, law schools, and bar associations at the national, state, regional, and local level, to use their voices and influence to protect our democratic institutions and, in doing so, uphold the oath they each took to defend the Constitution. The rule of law depends on free and fair elections where we can rely on the accurate reporting of the votes in the ballot box, impartiality in the counting of ballots, and that any disputes be resolved in the courts, and not through intimidation, violence, or falsehoods. Maintaining our democracy in the face of false statements about voter fraud, dishonesty in our public discourse, and threats against those who serve as public officials is becoming the greatest challenge of our lifetime. Changing the current path we are on will require focused attention and a significant commitment.
3) Why lawyers?
Since the formation of our country, lawyers have had the responsibility to defend the underlying constitutional values and norms of political behavior on which our democracy depends. This responsibility is manifested by a lawyer’s duty, upon becoming a member of the bar, to take an oath to defend the Constitution. Lawyers hold a special role in society to protect the rule of law, the values of our democratic institutions, and our justice system.
Lawyers of all political views are especially suited to play a key role in reversing the increased virulence seen in the tenor of public discourse, by using their status, skills, legal expertise, and convening authority to engage the profession and collaborate with civic and governmental leaders to:
4) What are the core principles of the Democracy Commitment?
Lawyers who participate in this project agree to take concrete steps to engage the profession and the larger community in a commitment to the adherence of certain fundamental principles:
5) What specifically would lawyers do?
Lawyers can be leaders in undertaking a variety of educational programs and projects in their geographical and social areas of influence. Each such effort would be focused on ways to protect the rule of law and to mobilize citizens in responding to and rejecting dishonesty, threats, intimidation, and violence, regardless of their source, to protect democracy. Such actions can include:
6) What is the role of Lawyers Defending American Democracy?
LDAD is a non-profit, non-partisan organization focusing on threats to our democratic institutions and the rule of law, with a particular emphasis on ways to galvanize the legal profession to become engaged in ameliorating these threats. The organization was founded on the belief that the legal profession has a special obligation to protect the rule of law, to speak up when democracy is threatened, and to lead by inspiration and example. LDAD commits to being a major resource to the profession in the implementation of the Democracy Commitment, assisting with the development of program ideas, toolkits, curricula, and other ways to ensure that the profession speaks with a more powerful voice on behalf of our democratic institutions.
LDAD Contact: Lauren Stiller Rikleen
PDF Version of The Democracy Committment