Opinion by Richard Bleil
Recently, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. It’s bad enough that the congressional and executive branch have moved out of their own realms and into the courts, but it seems like often, as decisions are handed down from courts, suddenly the story includes which president appointed the judge.
A federal appeals judge appointed by George W. Bush has decided that…
This should never happen. I don’t recall ever hearing this before the current president. His administration is so polarizing that politics has even infiltrated our judicial branch.
Should judges be impartial? I thought they followed the law. Yes, I understand that there may be some fluctuation in interpretations, but frankly, it should never be so extreme that the president that appointed the judge should factor into the decisions.
I teach chemistry. As such, I grade a lot of lab reports every day. Daily fluctuations will factor into the grades, as will my mood. Some days, the same labs might have a higher grade than other days, but, if it’s extreme, then I’m doing something wrong. I have a rubric that I follow, and with that, there is some level of consistency.
The rubric for federal judges should be the law. The way the constitution is written, Congress writes the laws, the President endorses them, and the judicial branch interprets them, but the laws themselves are the rubric for the judges. These laws are written carefully because those in Congress know that once it’s passed, others will interpret the laws. There is no “oh, no, what we meant was…” The law, once passed, is the law. Judges should be following that law, not the will of the president.
So, let me ask my reader, and any political leader this; if we cannot trust the judicial branch, what governmental branch can we trust? The judicial branch is supposed to be keeping the ethics high, protecting the people, and being sure that the law is applied correctly. It’s the judicial branch that is supposed to be sure that new laws don’t violate our constitution.
This is checks and balances, which this nation is supposed to be built on. The president proposes judges that he feels are qualified for the bench (and, hopefully soon, I’ll be able to say “he or she”). Congress is supposed to be the branch that checks these recommendations. Once appointed, the judges are supposed to be impartial.
I understand that judges are human. I get this. And because they are human, they will naturally be influenced by their own experiences and leanings in interpreting the law.
Another indication of a problem in the way things are done is Roe v. Wade. With the latest Supreme Court appointee, which the papers will tell you is a Republican appointee, there is suddenly a lot of activity in cases that challenge the ruling. Many of these challenges were just waiting for this newest appointment, saying that, now that the Supreme Court has more conservative justices, they should be able to overturn the judgment. But if it can be overturned by conservative leaning judges, does that mean that the original interpretation has been wrong all along? Or, if it is overturned, does that mean that this action will be wrong?
This is why judges also put so much weight on previous interpretations. The reality is that we, the People, have created this new autocracy in which we are living. Citizens gave too much power to governors and mayors. Our problems flowed to the state authorities like water to the ocean every time we turned to the law when there was a disagreement. What’s more, we do not hold our elected officials accountable, continuing to put known criminals in office, and allowing laws to be passed that are inherently criminal like allowing dark money into campaigns. The states gave their power away to the federal government, deferring to the federal law instead of fighting when they should. Congress gave their oversight power to the Executive branch. For example, when they passed a sweeping authorization for W. to do whatever is necessary after 9/11, they wrote a blank check that is coming back and biting them now. All that remains is the judicial branch. With Congress giving the executive branch their power, to complete the autocracy, all that remains is a branch to agree that the president can do whatever he wants. That we are noting who appointed judges so frequently is a sign that this is, indeed, happening already.
I wish I could trust our government. I honestly believe that democracy can work, but for it to work, we need to find our voices. We need to vote people out of office if they don’t represent us in a manner with which we agree whether or not they are in “our party”. But until we take back our power, then we are all in the clutches of a dictator.