Either to their delight or dismay, Americans live in constitutionally transformative times when the rule of law holding this nation together and rendering its leaders accountable is fast declining into something very different for our leaders and their favorites. This week’s news that the Department of Justice undermined its own career civil servants in prosecuting Trump crony Roger Stone, shortening the criminal sentence originally proposed, is but the latest evidence of a swamp not drained but simply restocked to the gills.
Yet for the moment, the rule of law still stands for most Americans. That’s why we heartily recommend fellow Wacoans take part in the annual People’s Law School. Mounted this Saturday at Baylor Law School, the event offers, and for no more than the trouble of pre-registering, a wide slate of courses on everything from the everyday law we encounter (such as specialized realms of elder law or estate planning) to topics going to the heart of our basic rights, including a new course on presidential power where you can learn more about the friction between Article I and Article II to a degree easily eclipsing some of the congressional candidates we have interviewed lately.
Some Central Texans, for instance, will certainly want to consider the course in Social Security Disability Law, given that the Trump administration has proposed many recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) more often prove they’re still less than able-bodied. SSDI and SSI recipients may be compelled to take part in more “continuing disability reviews” than in times past. Administration officials quite understandably seek to cut billions of dollars by adding greater scrutiny to the process and ferreting out those among us who don’t need to be on the public dole. The fear: Americans stymied by the bureaucratic labyrinth looming before them may well be left without benefits, even if genuinely disabled.
One thing that makes the People’s Law School so popular year after year is the fact Baylor Law School professor Pat Wilson and her colleagues who mount this event don’t operate in a vacuum. Each year’s offerings include old favorites for people simply trying to learn the legal basics in some specific area presenting challenges in life — family law, for example — yet event organizers also recognize some people want to better understand changes in our constitutional system of governance, including why presidents are becoming increasingly powerful in defiance of what the Founders ever intended. The course on presidential power will certainly generate healthy questioning, even debate. Ditto another course this year on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Another great thing about the People’s Law School — one of the few programs the Trib editorial board promotes each year — is that everyday, ordinary citizens can take up to three courses beginning at 9 a.m. and depart better informed by 1. And in between learning about the Constitution, property taxes, even pet law, take one course just for sheer grins. Our recommendation this year: “Don’t Learn Your Law from the Movies.”