On Tuesday March 11, the “Politics and Lunch” event at the Andrus Center for Public Policy featured Idaho’s 32nd and longest standing attorney general, Lawrence Wasden.
Wasden’s speech, titled “Balls and Strikes,” focused on the rule of law and how it has applied to his office throughout his administration.
“The rule of law binds us together as a society,” Wasden said. “It’s the source of our freedom and security.”
The rule of law states that all people and institutions are bound to law if it is impartially imposed. Wasden insists upon this principle, using the phrase “fair and square,” as the punch line to many of his statements throughout the speech.
As Attorney General, Wasden has been involved in many controversial issues during his term such as the Affordable Care Act and defending Idaho’s stance on same-sex marriage. He maintains that these topics, although morally questionable, present no legal foundation for him to take a stance because they are state and federal laws.
In 2003, Wasden made five promises upon taking office: To conduct firm and fair criminal prosecutions, protect Idaho’s water and sovereignty, protect Idaho’s consumers from fraud, pursue rights of stewardship of state endowed lands and ensure justice for all Idahoans.
Since then, he has done just that.
His office has successfully implemented an Internet task force designed to catch online predators targeting teens. They’ve also returned millions of dollars from consumer related fraud and continue to enforce the Idaho Competition Act, which mandates that a business can’t have market power in a way that is anti-competitive.
Wasden insists upon the rule of law, going as far as sending a letter to the current administration expressing his concern that lawmakers were choosing what laws to follow. This he feels is “inconsistent” with how the law must be.
“I am obligated to defend the Constitution,” Wasden said. “Whether I agree or disagree is irrelevant.”
The attorney general briefly commented on the Idaho gun bill that recently passed, which will allow for enhanced concealed firearms on college campuses.
“The issue is not whether it is good or bad legislation,” Wasden said. “But does it fit within the confines of the law?”
Wasden believes it does.
He also commented on the lack of public defenders in Idaho.
“We need to be serious about having a proper public defense system,” Wasden said.
Wasden believes larger counties have far better resources and are better equipped to have a well-functioning justice system.
Wasden feels there should be more resources allocated to smaller counties and that the public defense prosecution system in all counties should be “fair and square.”
For a podcast of this speech, visit the Andrus Center for Public Policy website.