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The rule of law from Rod Rosenstein

Jeremy Rachlin

Jeremy Rachlin

The Bar Association of Montgomery County held our annual Law Day Meeting and luncheon on Friday. This year, we were incredibly privileged to have U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein serve as our keynote speaker.

When our bar association booked Rosenstein to speak many, many months ago, none of us could have foreseen a situation where the back of the ballroom was packed with television cameras from all of the major news outlets and the rule of law in the United States would be in such a precarious position where minutes before the speech I could walk up to our executive director, pull out my phone, open up Twitter, exclaim “OH MY GOD, HE JUST GOT FIRED!” and see the color drain from her face because the practical joke was oh-so-plausible.

Rosenstein is a long-time resident of Montgomery County, as he noted in his remarks. To my knowledge, he has not yet appeared in our circuit court for jury duty, as has his fellow Montgomery County resident Chief Justice John G. Roberts. (I tend to think that our jury commissioner would excuse Rosenstein these days.) Rosenstein also has deep ties to our state and to many practicing attorneys here, having served most recently as the U.S. Attorney for Maryland.

I will not endeavor to recap Rosenstein’s speech. There is no question he offered a few tidbits of news, just enough to satiate the assembled news media so that they could file stories and tweets. Most importantly, however, Rosenstein gave very moving commentary about the history of the rule of law and the importance of separation of powers, closing with comments by Abraham Lincoln. Perhaps at no time since Watergate do Rosenstein’s words echo with such meaning. There is a reason why the close of his speech was met with a standing ovation the length and force of heart of which I cannot remember having been given to any prior keynote speakers at our Law Day luncheon (no offense to Washington Redskins legend John Riggins or Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford).

What does not appear in Rosenstein’s official remarks, but what he ad libbed, was he was looking forward to his daughter’s senior prom that evening. I immediately thought of how difficult it must be for his high-school age daughter to face a constant cacophony of negativity regarding her father. In this day and age of acrimonious disharmony, name-calling, cyberbullying and constant threats to fire officials and smear their reputations, it is important to remember that we have good and decent people like Rod Rosenstein to stand up for the rule of law, even if it comes at tremendous personal sacrifice to them and their families. 

And yes, even if Rachel Maddow made fun of our Law Day event that evening (“No offense to Montgomery County’s bar association, but this is not like the see-and-be-seen event of the century that no deputy attorney general could turn down.”), our little local bar association was so proud to have our hometown deputy attorney general grace us with a keynote speech.

Jeremy Rachlin is a principal at Bulman, Dunie, Burke & Feld Chtd. in Bethesda, where he practices estates and trusts and civil litigation.