LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The structure of our government prevents us from one day being under the tyranny of a dictator. On Law Day, the nation celebrates our heritage of liberty justice and equality under the law.
This year the focus is on the separation of powers--legislative, executive and judicial-- and how it's a framework for freedom.
Third Circuit Chief Judge Gene Thibodeaux explains sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't such as at budget time.
"You know you've got to go and beg for money to operate an independent branch of government," said Thibodeaux.
Yet he says the independence that exists provides checks and balances such as when schools were integrated.
"Brown vs. Education said that separate but equal schools were not okay, they violate our constitution," he said.
But when some states refused to comply...
"Eisenhower and Kennedy fixed that, they sent in federal troops They exercised their executive power," he said.
More recently, the Woodrow Karey case.
"The executive department, the DA's office did it's job, they prosecuted. The legislature had already done it's job. They articulated laws regarding self defense. The judiciary, the judges and the courts and jury did their job. Unpopular decision, but no rocks, no bullets," said Thibodeaux.
That, he says, is what happens when the separation of powers is respected.
Judge Thibodeaux was one of four who received service awards at the Law Day ceremony.
Commander James McGee with the Calcasieu Sheriff's office received the law enforcement award.
Sheriff Tony Mancuso says the community is safer because of him.
"He has developed many of our programs that you see about how to survive workplace shootings here recently," said Mancuso.
The Liberty Bell Award went to Senior Trooper Andrew Leonards--an instructor, qualified as an expert in field sobriety and drug impairment.
Assistant D.A. Charles Robinson speaks of his uncompromising integrity when it comes to upholding the constitutional rights of others.
"Even after the arrest he treated the suspect with the utmost respect and compassion. He's the kind of guy that goes above and beyond. And I think he epitomizes all ideal characteristics a law enforcement and community leader should have," said Robinson of Leonards.
Former District Attorney Leonard Knapp received the Judge Albert Tate professionalism award. Attorney Mark Judson says Knapp is committed to the community in many ways including habitat for humanity:
"On his watch, dozens and dozens and dozens of homes were built for people who would not otherwise own their own home," said Judson.
And Judge Thibodeaux received a special service award from the Martinet Society based on this idea in their preamble.:
"The role of the lawyer in society is that of a social engineer. IF the lawyer does not use his talents to make society better, he is doomed to become a predator upon it," said attorney Mark Delfin.
Delfin says Thibodeaux's service and leadership extend to health care, charter schools, and the local justice system.