Dear folks: After last night’s Nuclear Hootenanny, Senators really need to hear some phone calls on this issue, especially (but not only) if you live in NH, ME, and RI. And don’t get complacent: The Dems need to hear from you, too. In his conference call last week, Senator Kennedy said it really makes a difference: ?People (on the Judiciary Committee) are jittery. You?re making them jittery.?
Well, abuse of power comes as no surprise. And since the Republicans have their majorities, however slim, perhaps it’s not surprising that they would imagine themselves to transcend all accountability. Actual governance seems to be farthest from the mind of the folks in power right now. As the expression goes: "Why does a dog lick its balls? Because it can."
Last night was "Justice Sunday", Bill Frist’s and the Family Research Council’s simulcast attacking the independence of the judiciary, which the filibuster helps to protect. Although the Republican majorities are actually quite slim, the religious right has claimed their mandate within the party as the majority-makers. And Frist is egging them on.
But as Ted Kennedy made clear in our conference call, people aren’t going to put up with a change to the old Senate rules if all they get is a gaggle of radical judges. You really have to ask the question: Aren’t there any better judges out there than these? Couldn’t Bush just give up, find ten more garden-variety conservatives, and call it a day? Apparently not. Doing something simply "because you can" may be fun, but rarely ends up being a wise decision.
Well, federal judges matter. As Sen. Kennedy recalled, the 5th circuit court was extremely significant in the civil rights era. For better or for worse, we all saw the significance of federal judges in the Terri Schiavo case. I think we all felt a bit of "There but for the grace of God go I" while the controversy raged. And I think the general reaction was a mix of horror at the reality of the case, and horror at the hysterical political gamesmanship: Would you want a bunch of strangers to treat your family that way?
So let’s boil it down: For whom are Sen. Frist and Pres. Bush willing to "go nucular" to put on the Federal bench? How does it matter to us?
The first two are Priscilla Owen, a Texas Supreme Court judge who’s been nominated to the aforementioned 5th Circuit, and Janice Rodgers Brown, a California Supreme Court judge nominated to the Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit.
- If you want control over your own body, forget about it. And if you lose a limb at work, or have a corporate neighbor that pollutes, tough. She’s not interested. From Alliance for Justice’s fact sheet: "Justice Owen has taken campaign contributions from law firms and corporations, including Enron and Halliburton, and then, without recusing herself, ruled in their favor when their cases came before her."
(Ha. Maybe if you wrote her a check, too, she’d decide the case on the merits. Why so many folks seem to be unclear on the concept of "conflict of interest" these days is beyond me.)
- You know who thinks Owens is over the edge? That wacko lefty Alberto Gonzales, our Attorney General who thinks the Geneva convention is quaint because torture is hot. You see, she had a habit of making up new restrictions on abortions by minors that simply were not in the law. He said that following her logic would be an unconscionable act of judicial activism".
(Really! Read it yourself!)
Now for Brown: Just read this passage, and see if you think this sounds like a sober-minded judge (you know, as in the expression, "sober as a judge"):
?Where government moves in, community retreats, civil society disintegrates, and our ability to control our own destiny atrophies. The result is: families under siege; war in the streets; unapologetic expropriation of property; the precipitous decline of the rule of law; the rapid rise of corruption; the loss of civility and the triumph of deceit. The result is a debased, debauched culture which finds moral depravity entertaining and virtue contemptible…
I have argued that collectivism was (and is) fundamentally incompatible with the vision that undergirded this country’s founding. The New Deal, however, inoculated the federal Constitution with a kind of underground collectivist mentality.?
She really, really hates the New Deal. Most people think it was kind of necessary, and that the alternative that she might have proposed was a heck of a lot closer to slavery. You like Social Security? Brown is bad news for you. In fact, lifting a damn finger for anyone seems to be a little too much for her to bear. Does "conservative" really have to mean "misanthropic"?
I heartily invite you to read the whole speech. That will give you an idea of the kind of temperament we’re talking about here… that is to say, the total lack of temperament.
Also see this open letter from the Society of American Law Teachers. Very thorough.