Straight Talk from Al Jacobs
Ah, I remember it well … November of 2018: the controversy sparked by President Trump, when he criticized a U.S. Supreme Court Justice who ruled against a position the administration favored. In doing so, he referred to the Justice as an “Obama judge,” clearly reflecting adversely on the independence of the federal judiciary.
Shortly thereafter Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. took issue with the president. In a rare rebuke, Roberts issued a statement, released by the court’s public information office, stating: “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges, or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”
As anticipated, the president got in the last word when he tweeted: “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.”
Who was correct? Can the attitudinal leanings of a judge influence the judicial decision rendered? If you think not, consider the following. Several days ago an article appeared in The New York Times, with a headline reading: “Supreme Court OKs Alabama execution 5–4.” Without the slightest hesitation I thought to myself: Ah ha, I see the five right wingers overruled Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayer and Breyer. This took no particular sophistication on my part. What occurred, of course, is the Trump and Bush judges bested the Clinton and Obama judges.
These sorts of rulings have been standard with courts since the time of the Sumerian civilization some 6,000 years ago. Rulers select judges whose biases conform to their own. The letter of the law doesn’t matter; the specific legality of an event is of little concern; the concept of justice is not a factor. Judicial decisions are pre-decided based upon the political and philosophical preferences of the ruling authority.
A final thought: The recent brouhaha surrounding the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh should put to rest any illusion that court decisions are decided on pure legalistic fantasy. Human beings have never functioned in this manner.