Loyola University opens institute focused on rule of law

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Most Americans, when they think about “rule-of-law” issues — that is, if they think of them at all — see them as problems in developing countries, especially those that have suffered from conflict, like Bosnia or Rwanda in the 1990s.

It’s true that rule of law must be developed in those situations, said Paul Kantwill, the first executive director of the new Rule of Law Institute at the Loyola University Chicago Law School, but it’s importance is far wider.

“We believe that all problems are rule-of-law issues,” Kantwill said. “The way that we solve problems is to create rules. These rules work best when they are premised on fairness, equity and transparency. The rule of law underlies all political, economic and social good. It creates accountability and injects due process and transparency into a situation.”

The institute, which was created with the help of a $6 million gift from Loyola University Trustee Barry McCabe, will include an existing academic program, known as “Rule of Law for Development” or more commonly PROLAW, and three new centers: the Center for Applied Research; the Center for Policy, Legislation, and Governance; and the Center for Global Partnership and Strategic Engagement.

“We are creating an institute,” Kantwill said. “But at the same time we’re creating an institute, we’re creating a process. We want to do world-class research and analysis, and we want to take that research and analysis and translate it into action. We want to implement what scholars, researchers and other folks come up with.”

To explain how the institute will work, Kantwill used an ongoing effort to pass limits on interest rates that can be charged for certain types of loan. The bill, the Predatory Loan Prevention Act, passed both houses of the Illinois legislature in January, and the Catholic Conference of Illinois joined other groups in calling for Gov. J.B. Pritzker to sign it into law because predatory lending disproportionately harms poor people and people of color. Pritzker signed the law in March.

It’s similar to the federal Military Lending Act, something Kantwill worked on when he was in the U.S. Army, before retiring and working for the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau and then Loyola, his alma mater.

“We would have the Center of Applied Research examine all kinds of issues, and they would show these loans are bad, lead to cycles of debt, and we should stamp it out,” Kantwill said. “Then it would be examined by the Center for Policy, Legislation and Governance. They have people who know how to craft policy and create legislation. They can translate it into a white paper or a piece of legislation. Then it would be shared with the Center for Strategic Engagement and Global Partnerships — people in government, NGOs, all sorts of people like that. That’s sort of the cycle we envision with this institute.”

The institute also hopes to create an accessible, online library of scholarship about the rule of law, and reach out to people at other institutions and to the many social justice-oriented centers at Loyola.

“We have a long, long history with ties to social justice,” Kantwill said. “That’s one of the reasons why I think Loyola is so well suited to do this work.”

Another reason is the existence of the PROLAW program, which already educates attorneys on rule-of-law issues.

McCabe, who provided the founding gift, has long been involved with the PROLAW program.

“Human welfare and development depend on equal rights and responsibilities under the law, regardless of race, religion, gender, wealth or status,” McCabe said. “The rule of law desperately requires the humanistic, Jesuit focus that Loyola University Chicago is equipped to offer. Loyola not only prepares highly skilled attorneys, it also prepares professionals with a social conscience. That’s what the rule of law is all about and why I fervently believe it is worth advancing, especially at this time.”

“To overcome today’s global challenges like violence, injustice, poverty, hunger, you name it, you need the rule of law,” Kantwill said, acknowledging that many Americans may have taken the rule of law for granted. “In most ways, we are the international standard for democracy, free speech, human rights. Maybe we thought rule-of-law concerns are things folks on the international stage should worry about. When we consider it from the social justice, racial justice, economic justice standpoint, it’s something we all need to work on.”