Standing in front of the sold-out dinner at the opening night of the tenth annual American Constitution Society National Convention, keynote speaker Eric Holder waited patiently for the roaring applause to finish. His message to the hundreds of progressive lawyers, judges, and students before him was simple, but very important for all those in the room: We are achieving progress.
To illustrate this message, Mr. Holder reminded the room of his hard work pushing for fair and non-discriminatory prosecution of crack cocaine users, who often face much harsher sentences then those caught with a powder form of cocaine. Next, the Attorney General asked Mark Childress — the new leader of the DOJ Access to Justice office — to stand, to remind us of this administration’s progress in increasing access to justice for those who would otherwise have been denied their day in court.
Most importantly, Mr. Holder reminded us that there is still more progress to be made, as he discussed the right to civilian trials (instead of military tribunals) for those accused of terrorism and detained by the U.S. Looking out at the crowd, the land’s highest law-enforcement officer stated that as someone who receives daily reports on terror activities, he still believes that prosecuting alleged terrorists in civilian courts, which we have used for over 200 years, does not pose a heightened risk to the public. Rather, by granting the accused a fair trial, we will protect one of the most important pillars of our country: the Constitution.