Defense Counsel Journal

President's Page - Volume 89, Number 4

Volume 89, No. 4

March 05, 2024

Beebe_Mark_2022_sized Mark R. Beebe

Mark R. Beebe

Mark Beebe is a partner at Adams and Reese LLP in New Orleans, Louisiana where he has practiced for thirty-five years in the area of business litigation, including class actions, antitrust, securities, D&O and E&O liability, contract disputes, and education law. He represents and advises multi-national companies, financial institutions, insurance companies, and privately-held businesses. Since 2007, Mark has been recognized for his work in both commercial litigation and antitrust by Best Lawyers in America® and Louisiana Super Lawyers®. He is also recognized by Chambers in the area of General Commercial Litigation. Mark has been a member of the IADC since 2002 and is the IADC’s 2022-2023 President.

The Rule of Law Is Fundamental

"It is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the laws."

Aristotle, Politics 3.16

This October, the IADC hosted its thirteenth International Corporate Counsel College (ICCC). Vienna served as this year’s ICCC venue, and it was the third time that the IADC hosted a meeting in this city so captivatingly beautiful, remarkably historical, and culturally advanced. Anne and I marveled over Vienna’s Schönbrunn and Belvedere Palaces. We were engrossed by the city’s distinguished history, dating back to 500 B.C.E. and including playing a significant role later in the Habsburg Dynasty and the Holy Roman Empire. And, of course, we were moved by Vienna’s artists including the genius of Mozart and Johann Strauss I and II and the extraordinary paintings of Gustav Klimt.

Yet, a pall dimmed Vienna’s remarkableness. Certainly the persistence of COVID, the nettlesome resurgence of Nationalism, and the political divisiveness threatening the rule of law not only in the United States, but in Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, Kenya, and Turkey are most concerning. However, it was the war in Ukraine that cast the darkest shadow. Knowing that Ukraine’s border was only 650 miles from Vienna—about the same distance between Atlanta and Washington D.C.—made the hostilities much more concrete than the “war news” that we read in our daily feeds. But, it was the ICCC’s keynote presentation by Ukrainian IADC member Maria Orlyk, who evacuated from Kyiv to Vienna in February 2022, that made the war palpable and much more real than was comfortable. While Maria’s war story was surreal and frightening, it was an even greater reflection of her spirit and the spirit of Ukraine—courage, resilience, hope.

Maria relayed how she was awakened in the middle of night by calls from family and friends that told her that the war had begun and she needed to leave Kyiv. But, like any of us, Maria thought the possibility of bombs falling on her home was inconceivable. Maria did not pack her possessions, hoping that she would soon return. After getting her mother, Maria left Ukraine taking to the roads and headed west to safety. After several days, Maria and her mother arrived in Vienna, and found refuge with IADC friends, who provided her and her mother an apartment in the heart of Vienna, where they both remain today. Maria works from Vienna these days, but recently returned to Kyiv for a brief visit. The devastation that Maria witnessed when first returning to Kyiv was heartbreaking, with so many buildings reduced to rubble or having suffered such substantial damage, they were no longer inhabitable. When discussing the loss and destruction, Maria was emotional. She does not seek sympathy, rather Maria asks only for continued support for Ukraine. When I asked Maria how she was doing, she responded, “I am strong! Ukraine is strong!”

While my brief retelling of Maria’s experience fails to capture the magnitude and the true emotion of her story, my hope is that it brings home why the rule of law must be observed, promoted, and protected. Franciscus Cornelis Gerardus Maria Timmermans, a Dutch diplomat and First Vice President of the European Commission, maintains that “Respect for the rule of law is not optional; it's fundamental.” The rule of law promises that all persons and institutions, regardless of their economic or perceived community standing, shall be bound equally, impartially, and objectively by the law. The rule of law finds its origins at the beginning of societal organization and political systems among the ancient Greeks. I offer that the rule of law is among “the sacred rights of [human]kind” that Alexander Hamilton proclaimed “are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.” 

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, through his refusal to recognize the sovereign boundaries of Ukraine and the decision to invade Ukraine on pretextual grounds, disregards and disrespects the rule of law. Perhaps more ominous is the most recent threat that Russia might use tactical nuclear weapons or even a “dirty bomb” in Ukraine. There can be no justification to deploy a nuclear weapon in this war given the potential nuclear fallout affecting future generations and the expected escalation of the war in retaliation. Mr. Putin is moving dangerously close to an event horizon from which we cannot return. As lawyers, we play an essential role in supporting and maintaining the rule of law. Each of us must advocate for and advance the rule of law to assure that tyrants and despots, wherever they may lurk, are neither emboldened nor deluded that they might succeed in erasing or obscuring this fundamental, sacred right.