Friday, September 08, 2006
The Growing Effort of Conservative Christian Groups to Vet Judges At Every Level
The efforts of conservative Christian groups to seat federal judges who share their relgious/moral views have been widely reported in the press. At a private conference in March 2005, attended by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and then House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, evangelical leaders discussed a plan to "work with congressional Republicans to achieve a judiciary that sides with them on abortion, same sex marraige, and other elements of their agenda." Tony Perkins, head of Family Research Council, stated "For years activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups like the A.C.L.U., have been quietly working under the veil of the judicial bench, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms."
THe judges who refused to be surveyed are just smart and assertive. It isn't really anyone's business, and certainly not individuals who want to narrow who becomes a judge. It an anti-democratic impulse, and I'd call it crypto-fascist.
I can certainly understand the claim that judges shouldn't reveal their positions on issues that might come before them. However, to declare that asking a candidate for elective office, no matter what that office, to respond to a survey is "undemocratic"?
Bwah ha ha!
The problem is that it's too "democratic".
The bigger problem is that the distinction between policy making and judging has already been effectively destroyed, and in a democracy, the public is perfectly entitled to elect, and question in advance of the election, anybody aspiring to a policy making position.
So I say, ask 'em the questions, and if they refuse to answer, let them be defeated at the polls. The doctrine that judges shouldn't reveal in advance their position on potential cases is of a piece with their discarded role as impartial umpires enforcing rules other people create.
It has no place in a judiciary where judges feel free to have opinions as to which side of public contraversies should prevail, and act on those opinions.
This is an important topic. There needs to be, in this internet age, an online way to read judges' published opinions; that would clear away the mystery at the ballot box. In our fairly urban county often one needs to connect to the grapevine in the political party in which one is registered in order to find out why a certain judge is nominated for a gubernatorial appointment, or which judge has an irrascible demeanor on the bench or off the bench.
There is a tension here, because much of a judge's best work is accomplished behind the firewall of guaranteed privacy and security.
The rightwing part of the Republican party is entitled to do its due diligence in our democratic ambience.
But we need better ways for voters of less zealous stripe to access a broad array of information produced by and about judges at the county level.
I suspect it will take a state's legislation somewhere in the US to launch the kind of online presence which has the scope and specificity that I contemplate here.
In our region recently there was a lady judge depicted in the newspaper as trying to hide or diminish a driving under the influence citation. To me it was a tempest in a teapot; I was more curious to learn about her jurisprudence and the lives she affected from her place on the bench. But incidents like those are what newspapers publish. The ad hominems and ad mulierems become content for the media; but there is more substance in a judge's character than the pecadilloes.
I am curious as to what injury in fact The Florida Family Policy Council claims so as to establish its standing to litigate the constitutionality of the restrictions on judicial candidates' speech. This is not a situation, such as Republican Party v. White, wherein a judicial candidate wished to speak but was constrained from doing so. It does not appear that any willing speaker's speech has been chilled. What am I missing?
I can't speak to every group mentioned here, but I can tell you for a fact that Jim Bopp won't hesitate to lie because he lied directly to me about a complaint he filed a decade or so ago against the state of North Carolina w/r/t to some of its election laws. And I busted him on it in a front-page story the next day, although we didn't use the word "lie." (I guess there's one other explanation: He was too stupid to know what was in his own complaint.) Perhaps he thought I wouldn't actually bother to read his complaint to see if it said what he said it said, or something.
Anyway, if I were a potential judicial nominee, I would refuse to answer questions from any group connected with Bopp on the grounds that I couldn't trust him to relay my responses accurately and in context.
How do Duncan Kennedy, Mark Tushnet and Catherine MacKinnon (the formative influences of my legal youth) feel about your attempt to establish judges as something other than "purely political actors"? "Nonsense on stilts," maybe?Post a Comment