It was a busy weekend at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Besides high school hockey games and UMD women's and men's hockey games on Friday and Saturday, Funfest was going on along with a "A Prairie Home Companion" live broadcast and a wedding reception. As my husband and I walked down the Skywalk to attend one of the events, I looked at all the traffic and the number of people moving in and out of the facility with ease.
I thought, "What would happen if there were no laws?"
The thought occurred because I couldn't imagine multiple events happening if people did not follow traffic laws, have tickets for the games or performances, or even follow basic rules of civility. How would people safely drive? How would the University of Minnesota Duluth or anyone else pay for the cost of renting a facility? Would the facilities have safe entrances and exits? Would safety be a first priority for site managers? Would people want to attend events if they knew others weren't following rules?
In ninth grade, most students take a civics class. Freshmen learn there are three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. Each branch has its own responsibilities. The legislative branch enacts laws and the judiciary interprets laws. Laws are necessary in any society.
Some people choose not to follow laws on a regular basis. Criminal and traffic defendants with multiple cases appear in front of judges all the time. Even if the person has had, for example, many disorderly conduct charges, the judge must follow the law and not impose any more jail time than 90 days and/or a $1,000 fine. If a person pleads guilty or is found guilty of a more serious charge, such as criminal sexual conduct, a judge must follow the law regarding the sentence. Whether the judge personally agrees with the law is of no consequence. Judges must follow the law.
The good news is the vast majority of people, businesses, corporations and governments follow the law. If they didn't, our society could not operate properly. There would be no laws, rules or regulations regarding the environment, traffic safety devices, or repair of streets and roads. Sidewalks wouldn't be shoveled and open to the public. Crimes would be committed, and there would be no punishment or rehabilitation. Car accidents would happen, no doubt more frequently without traffic laws, and a person hurt in an accident would have no recourse to recover damages, including the payment of medical bills, from the person causing the accident.
As you drive your car, be thankful other drivers are following the law and, for example, not texting their friends while driving. Be grateful there are rules and regulations governing safety equipment for workers, traffic signals, building codes and the protection of the environment. Know that different government agencies, such as social services and schools, are following the law to protect children and vulnerable adults.
Admire law enforcement and fire department personnel for protecting and providing services to the public.
And finally, feel fortunate you live in a country with laws followed by lawyers, judges and, most importantly, you.
Heather Sweetland is a 6th Judicial District judge in the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth.