The third in a series of local judicial reform rallies, the “Occupy for Justice” event of July 17 drew participants to the south-side, main steps of the Luzerne County Courthouse. Pennsylvania District Eleven Congressional candidate Andy Ostrowski was the featured speaker, as he worked in conjunction with civil rights icon Jesse Epps and his America Rebirth Tour (A.R.T.) team to make the gathering a reality.
With the speeches delayed a bit, Forty-Fort resident, corruption watchdog, and blogger Mark Robbins took advantage of the downtime to present his fresh lists of local “Heroes & Villains,” unfurling 18″-wide scrolls down the courthouse steps. Some rally attendees were permitted to add a few of their selections to the lists under Robbins’ watchful eye.
Ostrowski kicked off the roughly two hours of speeches by explaining the motivation for his first bid for Congress. “The issue that we’re going to discuss in this campaign is justice, and what justice means, fighting for justice. . . . My slogan in this campaign is ‘Return government to the people,’ and that means all branches of government, and it starts with the courts. And that’s why we’re here today. We’re here today to talk about returning this third branch of government to our people,” he said. That message was well received by the audience, who braved an intense mid-day sun to demonstrate their dedication to what they view as long-overdue judicial reform. Some of the participants, like Ostrowski himself, had been pursuing that aim for years, even decades.
Ostrowski went on to note that the courts were historically the nexus of self-government, where a community could gather in the cavernous spaces, which now largely go unoccupied. He explained why this former approach was so important: “[The people of the community] watched their rights be determined between individuals. They watched the rights between the government and the individuals be determined, and they saw it happen in front of them. Well, that’s not what happens anymore.” The challenger to incumbent Lou Barletta lamented that court observers are no longer welcome, being instead viewed with suspicion by court personnel. And so the rallying cry to “Occupy for Justice.”
One of those longtime reform advocates is Terance Healy, of Montgomeryville, near Philadelphia. Healy spoke with the Independent Gazette before the formal kick-off of the rally of his motivations for driving a couple of hours to attend and speak: “To get some visibility on Rule 1.6.” The American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.6 applies to the client-lawyer relationship and the confidentiality of information. Healy and his associate, Todd Krautheim, see addressing the far-reaching ramifications of the rule as critical to addressing much of the corruption present in the judicial system. They were able to present their claims at the microphone towards the conclusion of the rally.
Former advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, Jesse Epps, introduced by A.R.T. associate Gabrielle Nicole Allen, followed Ostrowksi’s address on the courthouse steps after a few brief comments by Allen. Epps spoke as an elder statesman of sorts, reminding the audience of the central role that Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia in particular, played in the development of the founding documents of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. In keeping with the theme of reclaiming government from an elite few, he asserted that “the Constitution clearly states that we, the people, are the government. . . . Fortunately, we’ve got a group of ordinary folks, just like you, that are willing to step up to the bar and do their part.”
Indeed we do.