David and I were colleagues 30 years ago at the Department of Justice and have remained friends. When I was recently confirmed again as Attorney General I was delighted to hear that David’s son, Will, had joined the AG’s staff. The apple does not fall far from the tree. I am delighted Will agreed to stay on with me, and he is doing an outstanding job.
I also want to salute a man who I believe is a great American jurist, but also, in my opinion, one of the greatest AG’s to ever hold the office – Mike Mukasey. I have placed his official portrait in my office to remind me of his example.
We are also joined by many prominent judges, practitioners, and law professors. Thank you for being here and for supporting the thoughtful study and administration of law.
In this town, there’s a tendency to focus on the news of the day, as the past few weeks have reminded me. But the role of groups like ALI is to remind us of the bigger picture. So tonight, I want to take several steps back—to our Nation’s Founding.
The central genius of the American Constitution lies in its use of structure to protect individual liberty. It does not rely solely, or even primarily, on grants of substantive rights. As Justice Scalia colorfully quipped, “Every banana republic has a bill of rights.” His point—and mine—is that the bulwark against tyranny in America has always been our structure of government, most notably the Separation of Powers.
These days, clashes between Congress and the Executive steal the headlines. I know that all too well. But clashes between the Judiciary and the Political Branches are just as weighty.