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North Dakota Pipeline vs. James Botsford

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James and Krista Botsford
James and Krista Botsford
(Image by James Botsford)
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As filmmaker Keri Pickett and I scouted the grounds of the North Dakota District Courthouse, it was impossible to avoid the "photo-op" that, flanked by the American flag, towered above the edifice. Lady Justice had a firm grip on the scales of justice, holding our country's moral fate in the balance. This Lady watches over the distinction between truth and lies, and our legal system is designed to establish truth.

But does this always happen?

A naïve question.

Legality does not always support morality, and this is the crux of the legal battle the Botsford family is facing as it confronts the money and power of the Canadian oil company, Enbridge.

As Pickett and I worked our way to Room 303, abandoning cameras with the guard until the judge ruled on whether or not we could bring them into the courtroom, the solemn power of the justice system was evident. The judge never ruled on our request. It was moot, since the jury trial never happened.

As we waited the bailiff provided us with chairs, since the courtroom benches were occupied with a dozen or so spectators. The rest of the seating was filled with green laminated placeholders for a jury pool that never materialized.

I reflected on those green cards, wondering about the citizens of North Dakota who were summoned to this jury trial. What would constitute their moral and political makeup? Would they be typical "salt-of-the-earth" Midwestern farmers, businessmen and women, students, doctors, or retired people who just wanted to enjoy the August summer day?

No matter what their age, occupation, or political make-up, the people represented by the numbered green laminated cards would tip the scales held by Lady Justice.

I wondered what they felt when they were sent home without ever seeing the inside of the courtroom on this day. Would they know or care why they were summoned in the first place?

If the trial had moved forward, would their collective intellect and moral fiber have made a difference in the case of Enbridge vs. Jim Botsford?

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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