Sunday, March 14, 2010

I’m not sure what I think about this

Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife has formed a non-profit Tea party organization as she finds “herself among those energized into action by President Obama's ‘hard-left agenda.’"

She and Justice Thomas of course have every right to espouse the politics they believe in. But, the Court and now the spouses of the members of the Court seem to be becoming more and more overtly political.

It used to be that Justices didn’t say much of consequence outside of the opinions they wrote. Now they all seem to be spouting off. The Chief Justice is troubled by the fact that the President and Congress are politically motivated. Justice Ginsburg openly is supporting ending judicial elections (though I happen to agree with that view). Justice Scalia delights in popping off in speeches.

Justices are people. People have opinions and biases. But, judges hold a unique position. They are called upon to apply law to facts without bias. They don’t of course always do that. But more and more they have little compunction about making their biases public.

Now we have their spouses playing politics, to an extent parlaying their status as the spouse of a justice to get attention for their views. (Her public partisanship is a bit ironic, her husband says little, having not asked a question at an oral argument in a number of years now.)

The more and more publicly passionate “law” becomes, the less and less moral authority it has. The more and more it’s the big kid dispensing his or her brand of school yard “justice.”


Anonymous said...

I wonder what she considers Obama's "hard left agenda" to be. So far he's done nothing other than continue the policies George Bush put into place.

fermicat said...

Don't assume that spouses always agree on their politics. I can assure you that this is not always the case. PDM and I aren't all that far apart, but in a discussion we tend to polarize each other.

Dave said...

Not assuming Fermi, I've read his opinions for years. He's a lot closer to the Tea Party than he is to an even moderate Republican.

j said...

If it is possible for a defense attorney to leave his/her bias (e.g. patriotism or disgust at a defendant's horrific crime) at the door and defend terrorists/killers/child abusers etc then isn't it possible that a judge could do the same?

Dave said...

Absolutely J, and they've mostly done it for multiple centuries now. What concerns me is the trend to express their personal beliefs publicly. Lawyers do that, and maybe too often. But, a lawyer who offends a client by publicly saying the client is scum, looses the client and maybe garners a bar complaint. A judge that telegraphs a bias effects not only the immediate litigants but the public as a whole's trust in the judicial system.