Creating Law

As an attorney, I believe that the law should be understandable to ordinary citizens. Every day in my legal practice, I work hard to keep my clients informed and involved in their legal matters, because legal representation requires participation on the part of the client. How can a client be represented if they don’t understand their own case, and therefore can’t participate in making decisions that affect their future?

Some attorneys disagree with my egalitarian approach to the law. I maintain that redundancies, conflicting laws, and ambiguous language obscure justice. How can the law be fair if there are so many laws that you don’t know if you’re following the law or breaking it? Or worse, you can’t understand it or even afford to use the law due to its expense? As the writers of laws, it is incumbent on legislators to make the law understandable and affordable to the layperson.

If Attorney General, I would assure citizens that my offices would take that lawyer's "translation function" very seriously in explaining the law in terms ordinary people can understand.

Legislators should continue their work to simplify the law, reduce the burden of regulations on small business and property owners, and to bring common sense back into the equation.

Further, the executive branch must be able to enforce laws either directly or through rules that are simple. There are over 700 different sets of executive branch rules in Idaho. Not pages, SETS.

If Attorney General, I would provide legal opinions to both legislators and executive branch regulators to make the rules simple, so that ordinary people can understand them - and navigate them successfully at low cost. If the law is so complex that a regular citizen needs to hire a lawyer to interact with its own State, then the State has failed its citizens. For a Republic to operate and function successfully, the ordinary citizen must be able to understand and navigate the law and rules imposed by its own government.

Finally, State of Idaho courts must interpret the statutes as they were written. The rule for the third branch of government is outlined by the State Supreme Court:

"When this Court is tasked with determining the meaning of a statute: ‘The interpretation of a statute must begin with the literal words of the statute; those words must be given their plain, usual, and ordinary meaning; and the statute must be construed as a whole. If the statute is not ambiguous, this Court does not construe it, but simply follows the law as written. We have consistently held that where statutory language is unambiguous, legislative history and other extrinsic evidence should not be consulted for the purpose of altering the clearly expressed intent of the legislature.’ Jayo Dev., Inc. v. Ada County Bd. of Equalization, 345 P.3d 207 (Idaho 2015); citing Verska v. Saint Alphonsus Reg’l Med. Ctr., 151 Idaho 889, 893, 265 P.3d 502, 506 (2011) (internal citations omitted). To ascertain the ordinary meaning of an undefined term in a statute, [the Idaho Supreme Court has] often turned to dictionary definitions of the term. Id.; see Hap Taylor & Sons, Inc. v. Summerwind Partners, LLC, 157 Idaho 600, 614, 338 P.3d 1204, 1218 (2014).

A good question is whether and how much deference a court should give to executive branch rulemakers' interpretation of the rules those rulemakers create. Deference to the State that unduly burdens citizens subject to the rules and puts the State's interests ahead of citizens -- and is faulty deference. The State should not always win, and the playing field must not always favor the State. Citizens and their property rights and interests need to come first. Laws and rules that unreasonably burden citizens financially should be rigorously questioned by courts.

It is with these things in mind that I work each day for my clients, and if hired by voters into public service I would abide with these principles.