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Equal Treatment Before the Law

Former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn listens to proceedings in his case in New York state Supreme Court, May 19, 2011.

The concept that all people are equal in the eyes of the law is firmly rooted in the history of the United States.

The concept that all people are equal in the eyes of the law is firmly rooted in the history of the United States. In practice too, our system dictates that everyone must be treated fairly and uniformly under the law and that their treatment does not depend on their politics or position in life. As a constant reminder of this, the words "Equal Justice Under Law" can be seen inscribed on courthouses across America.

This was brought home with the recent arrest in New York City of a prominent international figure following an incident in the hotel there. Dominique Stauss-Kahn is the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, a world body that helps oversee the global financial system and makes loans to developing nations to encourage economic growth. He is charged with sexually assaulting a hotel chambermaid and denies the charges. Under the U.S. system of justice, Mr. Strauss-Kahn is considered innocent unless and until the charges against him are proven in court, beyond a reasonable doubt. He has resigned his post to deal with the serious accusations against him and is being held under house arrest in the U.S. until his trial. Ironically, the victim, a native of Guinea, fled that country some years ago fearing for her safety there.

Many in Mr. Strauss-Kahn's native France, where he was once seen as a possible presidential candidate in the next election, have expressed surprise and even shock at his treatment by law enforcement authorities here. Others elsewhere have commended the swift and impartial handling of the case. The over-riding point, however, is that whatever happens in the matter, it will all be played out in open court, with both sides – prominent international figure and chambermaid --- free to present their side of the story.

Justice is not perfect in our country, but it is intended to be blind, knowing no rank or creed. The Watergate scandal of the 1970s demonstrated that even presidents can feel the weight of the law, which our nation expects all to obey.