Ask anyone what the foundation of the American experiment is, and you’ll probably hear answers like “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” While that is a guiding principal of this nation enshrined in its Declaration of Independence, the deeper inference of those words lies in what will protect those concepts. That is, the rule of law. America’s rule of law, and its citizens’ ability to depend on that rule, is what the founders fought for. Dependability, without the whims of tyrannical kings being imposed on unrepresented citizens against their will is what protects “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Now all of that is being threatened.
A new breed of District Attorneys, many funded by George Soros, and empowered with the idea that certain crimes are not worth punishing, have taken over many of America’s cities. Their refusal to prosecute small crimes is leading criminals to believe their actions have no consequences, and smaller crimes are turning into bigger crimes. In The Wall Street Journal, Peter Reinharz explains the threat to democracy posed by these new DAs, specifically the new DA of Manhattan, Alvin Bragg.
Bragg Rewriting Laws With Which He Disagrees
The chief problem with Bragg’s approach to his duties, writes Reinharz, is his unilateral interpretation of laws with which he does not agree.
New York State’s Constitution, like the U.S. Constitution, divides government into three equal branches—legislative, executive and judicial—to ensure checks and balances that protect liberty and democratic self-government. New York’s Constitution requires that the state Legislature write and pass the laws, while the role of the executive branch is to carry out those laws as drafted.
Enter Mr. Bragg. As an elected district attorney, his job is the enforcement of the criminal laws passed by the Legislature. The law vests Mr. Bragg, like any executive, with a certain amount of discretion regarding enforcement. He can look at a defendant and decide that prosecution is unwarranted because the particular circumstances merit leniency. But this discretion is linked to the individual case before Mr. Bragg and his office. He can’t decide to ignore or rewrite those laws he doesn’t like.
But that’s what he’s done, for instance by proposing to treat all armed robberies that don’t result in serious bodily injury as misdemeanors. He has no authority to redefine a felony armed robbery, which New York law punishes by up to 25 years in state prison, as the equivalent of a petty theft with a maximum penalty of less than one year in jail. Yet Mr. Bragg has unilaterally decreed that a gunpoint robbery of a deli in Manhattan isn’t what the law says it is. Mr. Bragg presumes not merely to threaten democracy but to nullify it.
DAs Across America Abandon Citizens
Bragg is not alone. DAs across America are abandoning citizens in an effort to enforce their woke legal theology. Reinharz explains:
He is hardly the sole perpetrator of this constitutional revolution. Progressive district attorneys across the country have nullified statutes passed by state legislatures in the name of criminal-justice reform. The results of these actions have been well publicized. Prosecutors in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, St. Louis, Baltimore and Philadelphia have rejected their legislative directives, reducing enforcement even as crime soars.
Mayors in Seattle, Portland, Ore., and San Francisco, ignoring vagrancy laws, have likewise allowed autonomous zones and homeless encampments to flourish on public streets and parks throughout their cities. They have abandoned laws designed to protect citizens and their property.
Will Anyone Hold Bragg Accountable?
There are ways, Reinharz writes, that New York governor Kathy Hochul and the state’s legislature can take back control from Bragg, and protect their citizens. The question is, will they? Reinharz concludes:
If the Legislature agrees with Mr. Bragg’s policies, it can rewrite the laws accordingly. But lawmaking is a power solely vested within the Legislature, and elected legislative representatives must uphold their constitutionally mandated role. If the Legislature finds that Mr. Bragg has usurped its role by illegitimately revising the penal code, and if it further finds that he refuses to follow his constitutional mandate to enforce the laws as written, then it can impeach him.
Should the Legislature fail this basic task, the New York Constitution also allows the governor to remove a sitting district attorney for cause. That’s an extreme measure that she should exercise with caution. But how can the governor support a chief law enforcement officer who refuses to abide by the state’s most fundamental law, its constitution?
When Mr. Bragg was sworn into office on Jan. 1, he took an oath to protect the constitutions of the United States and the state of New York. The question for the Legislature and the governor: Does that oath have any meaning?
If you’re willing to fight for Main Street America, click here to sign up for the Richardcyoung.com free weekly email.