Monday, August 14, 2006

Susan Jacoby examines the "Activist Judge" Myth

"Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism" by Susan Jacoby is pictured to the left. Ms. Jacoby is also Program Director for The Center for Inquiry in their New York City effort.

Her commentary on "activist judges" covers the death threats concerns yet the following is especially solid:

But the current climate of hostility to the judiciary cannot be written off as a product of the lunatic fringe. Attacks on “activist judges”—a phrase that, like “the elites,” has become a code word for liberals—are regularly issued by Republican officeholders from the White House to state legislatures. The assault on an independent judiciary has always been an integral part of the Rovian political strategy that put President George W. Bush in office.

The Democratic Party’s response has been defensive and wishy-washy. Al Gore and John Kerry said almost nothing about the judiciary during their presidential campaigns unless they were asked a direct question—and questions were rarely asked because judges, unless their relatives are being murdered, are not hot news. Furthermore, the issue of “activist judges” resembles the “values issue” in that it has been brilliantly hijacked by the right in a fashion that tends to elicit me-too answers along the lines of, “I don’t like activist judges either, but I do want fair judges.”

The truth is that the real issue is not the activism of judges but the principles upon which they are acting. ...

... What the right resents is what the framers of the Constitution intended—a judiciary able to serve as a counterweight to popular passions. Conservatives oppose the appointment of any judge who, like many great Supreme Court justices in the past—Hugo Black, Earl Warren and Harry Blackmun come to mind—might confound the expectations of the presidents who appointed them. ...

... This is not a case that judges should have to make on behalf of themselves but a case that politicians who understand the meaning of the Constitution ought to be making to the public.

Peace ... or War!