Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Snaps to the Judge!

I have read many of Chief Justice William Rehnquist's legal opinions. I don't agree with his reasoning behind most of them, but this is something he and I agree on - Politicians need to back off the judicial system. There is a reason the founders made a system of checks and balances in the constitution.

Rehnquist lashes out against bashers of `judicial activists'
By David G. Savage Tribune Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (Link to Full Story)

Ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist said in a report released Saturday that judges must be protected from political threats, including from conservative Republicans who maintain that "judicial activists" should be impeached and removed from office.

Yet despite Rehnquist's reputation for conservatism, he has been just as willing to fault Republicans as Democrats when their actions and ideas threaten the courts.

DeLay often has criticized judges when he thinks they have overstepped their authority.

"The Constitution protects judicial independence not to benefit judges, but to promote the rule of law: Judges are expected to administer the law fairly, without regard to public reaction," the chief justice, whose future on the bench is subject to wide speculation, said in his year-end report on the federal courts.

The public, the news media and politicians certainly are free to criticize judges, Rehnquist said, but politicians cross the line when they try to punish or impeach those making rulings they do not agree with.

In his report, the chief justice did not name names but instead spoke of his concern for the "mounting criticism of judges for engaging in what is often referred to as `judicial activism."'

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), for example, has repeatedly threatened to impeach liberal-leaning federal judges for their rulings, such as the ban on school-sponsored prayers.

"A judge's judicial acts may not serve as a basis for impeachment. Any other rule would destroy judicial independence," Rehnquist said. "Instead of trying to apply the law fairly, regardless of public opinion, judges would be concerned about inflaming any group that might be able to muster the votes in Congress to impeach and convict them."

"Many of these judges begin to grow drunk on their own power," " DeLay said in 1997. "Why shouldn't the people have a right to impeach these out-of-control judges?"

I just have to pipe up on the DeLay quote - Pot... Kettle... hello! If there is one man drunk on power in the Congress, it is Tom DeLay. If anyone should be impeached, it is he.

1 comment:

Boomr said...

"It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is." That's a quote from Marbury v. Madison, a Supreme Court case from 1803, when it was first established that the courts have the power of judicial review of the acts of Congress. For more than 200 years, that's been the case, so "judicial activism" is nothing new, and is in fact entrenched in the first three articles of the Constitution.

"Judicial Activism" has created the right to privacy (including the right to marry, to have access to contraception, and other vague privacy rights not enumerated in the Constitution which U.S. citizens nevertheless protect with a passion), has outlawed segregation in schools and public places, has constantly expanded and redefined the right of free speech. In essence, "judicial activism" has allowed the basic document upon which our government is based, which was written 215 some-odd years ago, to remain relevant to our modern lives. It only takes a brief look at how long action in Congress takes on any issue of relevance, and how much divisiveness exists therein, before the intelligent decision is that we simply can't wait for our elected representatives to keep the law adapting to our times. We need "judicial activists" to keep archaic laws applicable to the world of the here-and-now.

Just about any rights that opponents of "judicial activism" can claim probably stem at some point from a court decision issued by a "judicial activist." And besides, before any decision by a "judicial activist" can become final, it has to pass through at least two different levels of appellate review by other courts, so there's a built-in safety net.

What the opponents of "judicial activism" really oppose is LIBERAL judicial activism. They don't seem to oppose conservative judges who rule against abortion rights, or in favor of displaying the Ten Commandments in courts, or other hot-topic religious right issues -- all of which go AGAINST current law, so the judges ruling in that fashion are "activists," too.

Keep the courts free of politics, and the politicians away from the courts (unless they're sued for infringing our rights). Until the elected representatives actually represent ALL of the people, we need "judicial activists" to keep the law honest.