20 August 2012

Public access to the Law

Last week, one of my lawyers asked me to find a copy of a nearby county's law.  This should be an easy task; for the public to follow the law, the law must be public.  Yet the county laws in question were not available, either on their website or at the local courthouse.  Thanks to the county attorney, and his staff, this ended well--they have agreed to provide us a copy of their laws, which I will keep on file for future reference.

This is illustrative of a serious problem, though: no one can be expected to follow a law that cannot be read, and application of such law appears arbitrary and capricious, which undermines public trust and government authority.  In short, to quote Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, if a law isn't public, it isn't a law.

Carl Malamud of Public Resource has made publishing the law a national cause, and is having some success at the national level.  We need to support this effort, and see that it extends through all levels of government, because we are only as free as our knowledge of the law that binds us.

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