Nacchio: A man for all seasons
Posted by Al Lewis
Al Lewis, Denver Post
Saturday, July 28, 2007
I wrote on Friday about a woman who compared Nacchio to
Judge Edward Nottingham came up with a different literary
illusion during Nacchio’s sentencing: “A Man for All Seasons.”
Here’s a transcript of what Nottingham said on Friday:
“What I haven’t talked about so far is the need for the sentence
imposed to promote respect for the law. That purpose is clearly
set forth in the statute. I believe this Court is in a position
to articulate what is meant by respect for the law, so I will
address you directly, Mr. Nacchio. I will address you as a
citizen, and I will address your fellow citizens about what is
meant by respect for the law.
To my way of thinking, one of the best illustrations of this is
and of the role of the rule of law in our society is a line from
a movie called "A Man for All Seasons."
As a practicing Catholic and as someone who, according to some
of the letters I read, has some interest in history, you will
appreciate, I trust, that "A Man for All Seasons" is about a
devout practicing Catholic named Sir Thomas Moore. Sir Thomas
Moore was a devout Catholic at a time when it was not very good
for people to be devout Catholics, because the sovereign, whom
he served, the King of England, Henry the Eighth, was having his
problems with the Catholic church.
Henry the Eighth was a monarch who made the law and enforced the
Sir Thomas Moore was also the Lord Chancellor of England, the
King’s minister, and a lawyer.
The scene that I’m talking about is a scene where where Sir
Thomas Moore is being urged by his son in law Roper and by his
wife and daughter to arrest a man a scoundrel, really, named
Richard Rich. And Moore responds, as follows, referring to
'And go he should if he were the devil himself until he broke
Roper says, “So now you give the devil the benefit of the law.”
And Moore replies, “Yes, what would you do? Cut a great road
through the law to get after the devil?”
Roper replies, "Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do
Moore responds as follows, and this is the part that I want to
talk to you about:
“Oh? And when the last law was down and the devil turned round
on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?
This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast,
man’s laws, not God’s, and if you cut them down, do you really
think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow
then? Yes, I’d give the devil the benefit of the law for my own
This republic is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast.
Not every one of us agrees with every one of those laws. There
are people who disagree strongly, who think they can disobey the
law whenever it suits their purpose. There are people who
disregard the laws.
The law has protected you and permitted you to stand upright in
the winds, because you’ve received, to the best of this Court’s
ability, due process of law.
You will continue to receive that. No one should begrudge you
the opportunity to continue to pursue the rights that you
believe you have.
The law in a republic such as this is in danger and cannot stand
if a large portion or a significant portion of the citizens of
that republic come to believe that it is not evenly enforced.
That is what is meant by equal justice under the law. It is not
that you get the same sentence as everyone else, of course. It
is that you are treated equally.
If it is perceived that there is one law for the rich and one
law for everybody else, the law will ultimately fall into
The law protects you from others, and it protects others from
you. It now becomes this Court’s job to decide how important it
is in this case for your sentence to promote respect for the
law. In a sense, yes, you are an example. In a sense, that is
unfair to you. But the Court is a public institution in this
republic, and it has a duty to promote respect for the law and
to impose a sentence that is serious enough to do so.
So in addition to the other statutory purposes, I underscore the
statutory purpose of promoting respect for the law and telling
you and every other citizen, that the law does not care that you
are wealthy, or at least were wealthy. The law does not care
about your station in life. The law can fashion a sentence
which recognizes your charity and your good works, but it will
not let the charity and good works overwhelm the need to promote
respect for the law."