The Common Law?

The Common Law?

Instapundit put up a poll asking about the design of this new DOJ website. I'm not sure that design is all that important in a DOJ website; but if we are going to talk about it, the one point of the design that bothers me is the quote they put up at the top of the page:

Apparently this phrase is carved in stone on the DOJ building, so putting it on the website is not a big deal by comparison; but what a strange sentiment! Common law (which is to say, the decisions of courts and precedents) has little to do with "Mankind" or "the People," and everything to do with judges and lawyers. It is their will, in other words, insofar as it is "will" instead of the interpretation of positive law.

Insofar as it is "will" in the judicial sense, American "common law" should be entirely guided by our Constitutional law. It is the Constitution that is the expressed will of the People -- not "Mankind," which includes a lot of folks who are not part of the American "We, the People." It is the upholding of the Constitution that the DOJ ought to be thinking of as its chief mission.

Apparently the quote drew other eyes than mine. The Spectator asked after it, and came up with the following answer.

Another DOJ lawyer says, "It's taken from an inscription along one of the outer walls of the department ["The common law derives from the will of mankind, issuing from the life of the people, framed by mutual confidence, and sanctioned by the light of reason"], but no one is sure where the quote came from."

The quotes that ring the building were selected during the construction process back in the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Some attorneys believed the quote is pulled or adapted from the writing of Sir William Blackstone, the 18th Century British jurist, who wrote the Commentaries on the Laws of England, which influenced not only British law, but also the American constitutional and legal system. But other Department of Justice employees say the quote originates from British lawyer, C. Wilfred Jenks, who back in the late 1930s and after World War II was a leading figure in the "international law" movement, which sought to impose a global, common law, and advocated for global workers rights. Jenks was a long-time member of the United Nation's International Labor Organization, and author of a number of globalist tracts, including a set of essays published back in 1958, entitled The Common Law of Mankind.

Most telling: Jenks, as director of the ILO is credited with putting in place the first Soviet senior member of the UN organization, and also with creating an environment that allowed the ILO to give "observer status" to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and to issue anti-Israeli statements, which precipitated efforts by the U.S. Congress to withdraw U.S. membership from the ILO. The U.S. actually did withdraw in the mid-1970s due to the organization's leftist leanings.

"It was Jenks's efforts that helped make the ILO a tool of the socialist and communist movement," says one of the DOJ lawyers. "We used to joke about how fitting it was that this was Janet Reno's favorite quote to use in speeches, and now the Obama folks think it encapsulates out department's mission."

Suggestions to highlight quotes from the U.S. Constitution or Bill of Rights or quotes from the Founders, the Federalist Papers or prominent American jurists were quickly shot down by the Department of Justice's media and new media teams, according to DOJ sources familiar with the design process, and the White House communications shop was given input to the overall design as well.
So it's an old quote, from a source no one can quite identify: the Spectator's attribution to Communists is weak, though not wholly implausible. It is a quote that apparently is highly inspirational to people like Janet Reno and the current White House.

Perhaps a small matter; perhaps just a window into their thoughts.

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