Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Judicial Intimidation


From the Washington Post:
Sen. John Cornyn said yesterday that recent examples of courthouse violence may be linked to public anger over judges who make politically charged decisions without being held accountable.

In a Senate floor speech in which he sharply criticized a recent Supreme Court ruling on the death penalty, Cornyn (R-Tex.) -- a former Texas Supreme Court justice and member of the Judiciary Committee -- said Americans are growing increasingly frustrated by what he describes as activist jurists.

In fact, as the Post story explains, violence against judges has generally involved highly unstable people who bear personal grudges against particular decisions against them.

It's difficult to see why Cornyn would make so asinine a comment if he had not intended to send the message that federal judges should watch what they do from now on. This cannot be put down to an offhand remark or mere abstract speculation. It was in a speech on the Senate floor made by a seasoned politician. Cornyn knew exactly what he was doing.

Sadly, Republican politicians like Tom Delay and Cornyn now appear to believe that veiled threats against the federal judiciary play well with their political base. Cornyn's remarks are especially disgraceful given the fact that he is a himself a former judge. He above all people should know better than to suggest on the floor of the U.S. Senate that judges have brought on themselves the violent acts of lunatics. He does nothing but encourage such violence in the future.


mjh21, you can start holding your breath. I denounce any attempt by liberal or left wing politicians-- or moderates for that matter-- to insinuate that judges who exceed their authority under the Constitution bring violence on themselves. If you can cite to some examples, I'll be happy to denounce them on the pages of this weblog.

You've lumped a bunch of different types of statements together, mjh21. Malveaux wishes Thomas dead at the hands of his wife. She says he deserves to die, and that's reprehensible. Brown's calls Thomas a shill for white racism, and says Thomas should be ostracized in the black community. That's wrong, but it's not a threat of violence or wishing Thomas dead like Malveaux's. Clay's statement is just outrageous and wrongheaded.

Kennedy's statement, made in the middle of the campaign against Bork's nomination, is hyperbole, but it is simply not in the same league as the others-- he's pointing out the consequences of Bork's views on what statutes would pass constituitonal muster. Maybe you disagree with Kennedy's judgements, but there's no threat here. He thinks Bork would be a terrible Justice who would undermine constitutional liberties in this country. On that particular point, I happen to agree.

You object to character assassination of sitting judges. That's fine, but it's not what I'm objecting to-- veiled threats against sitting judges. Vituperative criticism of judges, even if unfair, doesn't undermine judicial independence in the same way that threats of retribution and apologies for violence against judges do. If you disagree with me, and think that judges are just as cowed by unfair and caustic criticism as they are by veiled threats of retribition and apologies for violence against them, you're entitled to your opinion. But in my view it is the latter that deserves special condemnation, whether it is done by people on the left or on the right.

That duely enacted law said in effect that the Shavino case could be reviewed again. But, in the case of a review, what should have been reviewed.

Appeals courts rule on the correctness of interpretation of the lower courts ruling. In the Shavino case, the ruling was that it was a state issue. That was ruling prior to the law enacted by Congress and signed by the President. The law provided no new perspective from which to review the case, thus no review was possible. And, the law was just grandstanding. It was just for show. It was just to say that the Repubs are on the side of the right to life, theocracy pushers.

There was absolutely no enactment of any provisions on which any review of the case was possible. The courts did as they were directed by the Congress.

Appeals under due process are not "emotional" appeals.

Judges to not legislate as the right asserts. Judges do not express their own opinion. They follow precident. They are tightly constrained. And, the issue under review is very small.

The grey areas in law that generate the issues reviewed under appeal are put there by legislators.

It is not necessary to get more conservative judges to overturn Roe v. Wade, for instance. What is necessary is for Congress to quit hiding behing the courts, so they can say to their constituents, no I didn't do that, the court did that. Maybe the people who should be accountable should be the Republican legislators.

Senator Edward Kennedy -- "Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, children could not be taught about evolution."

So, are we ready to denounce Swimmer Ted?

What I would like to see is different court systems.

A Federal Criminal Court System.
A Federal Contract Court System.
A Federal Liability Court System.

In England there was several courts, each with its own powers, laws to enforce, and areas of responsibility. Then the Judges could actually become as expert at an area of the law as the attorneys who appear in front of them. The most famous of the English courts was the Star Chamber court, for that was where the nobility had to appear alongside commoners.

Having a contract court system would permit each contract to pay a tax of some small percent of the maximum gross value of the contract. That would fund the criminal court.

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