The Association of U S West Retirees



Nacchio: A man for all seasons
Posted by Al Lewis
Al Lewis, Denver Post Blog
Saturday, July 28, 2007

I wrote on Friday about a woman who compared Nacchio to Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

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 law.

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 Rich:

'And go he should if he were the devil himself until he broke the law.'

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 that.”

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 safety’s sake.”

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 disrespect.

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."