Law’s Empire

When I was younger, I had this conviction that the law was a noble calling allied with rationality and justice. The more I learn about it, and see of it, and deal with it, the more it seems a grotesque parody or subversion of those things. Necessary? Yes. Noble? Not really. Often, it just seems like a game played by the rich, educated, and powerful, intended to rationalize whatever needs to be rationalized so that the world stays the way it is.

I figured all this out rather late in life, but remain proud of the fact that despite fifteen years as a pre-law adviser at two institutions of higher education, I was by all conventional measures a failure at it. I succeeded only in unconventional terms: I saved students from the moral descent they would have made by going into the law. Some of my advisees became lawyers, to be sure, but others didn’t; they went on to do other things, in part at my suggestion. I’m happy for them, happy for me, and happy for the world that so many of my “pre-law advisees” bypassed law school. My employers were less happy about it, but that’s because they were part of the problem, and remain so.

My condolences to my friend Izzeldine Aboueilash on the outcome of his legal case, a noble attempt to seek justice where none was to be found. I can only say to him that the Israeli Supreme Court is not the tribunal that matters in this case. No court of law is. The tribunal that matters gave a verdict on this case a long time ago. What a bunch of lawyers have to say about that verdict doesn’t change it, and is ultimately of no importance. As a higher court has put it: “Wa man ya’aml mithqala zarathin sharran yarra‘” (Qur’an, 99:8).

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