April 6, 2005

Judicial politics.

There's a lot of detail about the political reaction to the judiciary in this NYT article.

Senate majority leader Frist is distancing himself from some of the rasher statements:
"I believe we have a fair and independent judiciary today," said Dr. Frist, who declined to comment directly on Mr. DeLay. "I respect that."

Dr. Frist, of Tennessee, moved quickly to separate the emotionally charged case of Ms. Schiavo from the politically charged possibility of a showdown over Democratic filibusters against President Bush's judicial nominees. Opponents are linking the two, calling them examples of how Republicans, stymied by resistance, take extreme steps to advance their ideology. That tie could complicate Dr. Frist's push to change Senate rules.

Yes, that linkage was ridiculous. Right when you want to criticize your opponents for excessive obstruction of worthy candidates, you make a big deal about how completely political judges are? That makes no sense! If judges are horribly political, politicized opposition to nominees is called for.

The article has more on Senator Cornyn's regrettable comment about judges and violence (about which I've written enough for the moment). (There's also this overstated NYT editorial today ripping Cornyn.)

The article also has this about Tom DeLay:
Before he changed plans to attend the pope's funeral, Mr. DeLay had been scheduled to be a headline speaker this week at a conservative conference, "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith," sponsored by the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration.

According to its organizers, potential steps to be discussed are impeaching federal judges who let personal values influence decisions, reducing or eliminating court financing, and giving Congress and the states the power to vacate Supreme Court rulings.

Way to show your respect for the Constitution!
"This is going to be an action-oriented conference," said a meeting planner, Don Feder.

Feder ought to clarify if he's not actually interested in the "potential steps" the NYT says the conference "organizers" are taking seriously, because the article makes him look bad.

The article notes stirrings in the ABA:
The tone of the criticism aimed at the judiciary after the death of Ms. Schiavo, whose feeding tube was removed, has drawn the attention of the American Bar Association. In an e-mail message on Friday to the bar's membership, its president, Robert J. Grey Jr., said lawyers and others who work with the law needed to respond to what he described as decreasing respect for the courts.

"As the voice of the legal profession," Mr. Grey wrote, "we must not allow those among us who would do harm, in any form, to destroy the very freedoms our legal system is entrusted to protect."

What is the connection between that quote and the project of preserving respect for the judiciary? One of the things the judiciary gets disrespected about is (supposedly) understating the expanse of various constitutional rights. Does Grey mean he expects the judges to draw the right lines about the scope of government power in relation to individual freedom and if they do that, we'll respect them? That seems to be about the same sort of respect the various politicians who run down the judiciary are willing to give. So I could use a clarification from Grey too.

Finally, the article previews the coming fight over the filibuster:
As interest groups stepped up their lobbying, the political parties continued maneuvering in advance of a potential Senate vote to bar the filibusters. Mr. Reid said he was willing to consider ways to avoid a floor fight.

"Let's just calm down and see where the American people are on this issue," he said.

Republicans say it is Democrats who are stirring up the issue, noting they have established a special political strategy office, under Mr. Reid's control, on the filibuster fight. The Republicans say that Dr. Frist is facing increasing pressure from Republican senators to move forward and that his options are diminishing.

"We will reach a point where negotiations, I guess, will have to end, because they will be fruitless, and then votes will have to be cast," said Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the No. 3 Republican.
Yes, let's just calm down. I bet they won't. But maybe they will if "they see where the American people are on this issue," and what they see is that we don't like the exaggerated posturing of politicians degrading the judiciary.

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