Friday, September 4, 2009

The "Supreme Expression"

Law. That which is laid down, ordained, or established. A rule or method according to which phenomena or actions co-exist or follow each other . . . Law, in its generic sense, is a body of rules of action or conduct prescribed by controlling authority, and having binding legal force. . . That which must be obeyed and followed by citizens subject to sanctions or legal consequences is a law. . .Law is a solemn expression of the will of the supreme power of the State. (From Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, 1996)

Statute, n. A law passed by the legislature of a state; an enactment; a fundamental or permanent rule of law. (From Webster's Popular Illustrated Dictionary, 1937)

bill, 6 : a draft of a law presented to a legislature for enactment; also : the law itself . . .(From Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, 1996)

The law is what it is. And, legislative drafting is serious business. The legislative drafter needs a firm foundation in Constitutional Law, should be well versed in all aspects of the Separation of Powers doctrine, and must never think that he or she knows everything. Fortunately, I have learned from some of the very best including:

  • John V. Orth, William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor of Law at UNC Law School. Professor Orth taught eloquently from Lawrence M. Friedman's classic History of American Law and from his own scholarly articles. I recommend two of Professor Orth's books -- Due Process of Law: A Brief History (University of Kansas Press, 2003) and The Judicial Power of the United States: The Eleventh Amendment in American History. (Oxford University Press, 1991).  
  • Daniel Pollitt, now an emeritus professor of law at UNC Law. After World War II, Professor Pollitt was an associate of Joseph Rauh. He was the kind of teacher who frequently left the classroom to practice real law in real time by defending capital cases, representing poor people, and taking on free speech and civil liberties cases. While I was in law school, he would spend the summers as a special counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor.
  • Gerry F. Cohen, a Morehead Fellow while at UNC Law School, and currently the Director of the Legislative Drafting Division of the NCGA Legislative Services Office. That would be my boss. North Carolina has a non-partisan central professional staff that serves both the State Senate and the House of Representatives, and the majority and minority parties. Gerry is known in NC legal and political circles as "Constitutional Cohen" -- really. 
  • Mother Wit.  A master teacher.

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