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Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Beyond Imagination?: The January 6 Insurrection

The following post is by Mark C. Alexander, Arthur J. Kania Dean and Professor of Law at Villanova and is sponsored by West Academic.

As United States citizens, we have long prided ourselves on the peaceful transfer of power after elections. Every four years we hold a presidential election, resulting in a winner. Dissenting voices may object, but the winner is accepted, and the loser moves on. At least this was the case until January 6, 2021.

Since that fateful day, we have been consumed with and concerned by that day’s events. Amounting to nothing short of an insurrection, a violent and deadly mob stormed the U.S. Capitol while the Congress was meeting to perform the essential, yet largely ceremonial, task of counting the ballots from the Electoral College to formally declare the winner of the presidential election. That task has occurred without much attention for 200+ years, but this time it was different. Instead, Americans watched the unimaginable happen—an attack on our democracy, the rule of law, and the foundation of America’s constitutional democracy.

While our nation has always been a work in progress, the rule of law serves as the guide to achieve the promise of equal justice under law. Throughout our nation’s complex history, the rule of law and our carefully balanced constitutional system has allowed the nation to confront and successfully navigate many unique existential threats.

As law professors, we train the next generation of lawyers; therefore, we are obligated to examine these seditious acts, with an eye on the lawyers involved, the rule of law, and our system of laws and government. As lawyers, we also must act according to certain standards of conduct, which reflect the great trust placed upon all members of our noble profession.

In the immediate aftermath of the events of January 6, 171 deans of American law schools came together and wrote an open letter addressing the attack. After that open letter, I reached out to a number of colleagues, and 14 of us decided to write a book, entitled Beyond Imagination?: The January 6 Insurrection. The book is not a partisan undertaking; it is instead intended to expose the problems that led to January 6 and to help us move forward and heal. Our cause is the rule of law; our loyalty is to the Constitution of the United States. We support the American people, not one candidate, elected official, or individual. Each co-author wrote one chapter—relatively short and accessible, but still erudite. We write from our perspectives as legal scholars, as deans of our institutions, and as individuals who have been engaged in leadership in various ways, primarily (but not exclusively) in the law.

As lawyers and legal educators, the ongoing legitimacy of our nation’s republic requires us all to engage. This work will not be easy. We hope that all may be interested in reading this book as an exercise in civics and that it will challenge the reader. It could form the basis for a stand-alone course or, you could use select chapters in a course on any number of myriad subjects. It would work well for a sort of “One Book” course, or for CLE offerings as well.  We hope that this work can serve as a sober reminder of the weight and responsibility that attends the oaths we have taken to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.

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