Perspectives PERSPECTIVES is a forum for members and
others to express their opinions and views.
Civics learning is essential for perpetuating our democracy, but it has been on the wane for years. For at least a generation, more Ameri- cans have been ignorant about our constitutional system than at any
other time in history. Fewer Americans vote now and fewer young
Americans believe deeply that our system is fair and just.
This is obviously a problem for the legal system. For example, it means
not having a jury pool who will understand the important role they play in
pursuing equal justice under the law. There is also a wider cultural problem
of underrepresentation: Having fewer voters means that our elected officials
are chosen by a minority of a minority. There’s a danger that minority viewpoints will be not only ignored but foreclosed.
The risks created by faltering public confidence in the legal system have
been apparent for some time. It is up to the Washington state legal commu-
nity to lead on the issue of citizen awareness. This is the only way the legal
system will produce outcomes the public can rely on.
Lawyers are often seen as role models. A respected profession requires
respectable representatives. If we see lawyers abusing common courtesy,
abusing the legal system, or being dishonest, the consequences will play out
Lawyers are obliged to explain the American justice system to other
citizens, whether in our public schools, colleges and universities, or through
other social networks. The Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) has
attempted to foster such education through its civics and law-related websites, its lawyers’ assistance programs, and other pro bono activities. These
are all important undertakings, but more is needed from the legal profession
as a whole.
Lawyers Must Tell the Story of Democracy
On the importance of civics education
by George R. Nethercutt