Why not a Mentat for the court?

Folks, I’ve got nothing against Sonia Sotomayor so far. Still gathering info, in an offhand, passive sort of way. She seems to have really nice teeth. The NYT reports that her rulings “Are Exhaustive but Often Narrow.” Narrow sounds good. They say she saved Major-League Baseball. That’s good, right?

But I’ve got to tell you, I’m not liking all this human-interest, fuzzy-wuzzy stuff I keep hearing. Nor do I like the rather blatant Identity Politics language, of which even the judge herself has been guilty:

Judge Sotomayor has said that “our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions.” In a lecture in 2001 on the role her background played in her jurisprudence, she said, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

You see, I’ve got this thing about the Rule of Law. The law should be no respecter of persons. We should be a nation of laws, not of men. Or women. In other words, who you are and what the law is are two entirely different things, and no one should be more cognizant of that than a Supreme Court Justice. Respect for that notion ought to be right up there at the top of the job description.

So yeah, I’ve got a problem with this. And it’s reinforced by the fact that President Obama himself indicated that HE would be looking for something other than someone who objectively ruled on the law. I wrote about how that was really starting to disturb me right before the election. (A lot of you thought that column was just about abortion — a problem which I attribute to the tragic way that abortion has distorted our political discourse. But it was about much broader concepts.) An excerpt from what I wrote at the time:

Sen. Obama seems to judge court rulings based more on their policy effects than on legal reasoning. In his autobiography, Dreams from My Father, he wrote, “The answers I find in law books don’t always satisfy me — for every Brown v. Board of Education I find a score of cases where conscience is sacrificed to expedience or greed.” That hinted to me that he cares more about good outcomes than law. But I forgot about it until I heard him say in the debate that “I will look for those judges who have an outstanding judicial record, who have the intellect, and who hopefully have a sense of what real-world folks are going through.” That third qualification disturbed me because it seemed to demand a political sensibility on the part of judges, but I wasn’t sure.

And now here we are — with a nominee who is not embarrassed to say such things as what I quoted above. And I have a problem with this.

Which, I know, puts me on the “right” side of the left-right wars on this one. And you know how I hate being on either side, but it happens.

That said, I’ve seen nothing yet that would keep me from voting to confirm her were I a senator. Why, you ask? Because, unlike the president, I don’t consider this touchy-feely biography-as-qualification stuff to be important enough to make up my mind either way. It’s peripheral. The point is, is she a good judge, which is something that is entirely independent of how she feels about herself as a Latina, or how the president resonates to that.

And yes, I know that to many liberals, this makes me sound like, at best, a cold fish. But folks, the law is a cold-fish thing, if it’s going to be fair. It’s about the intellect, not the emotions. My liberal friends, do you want Roberts or Scalia or Thomas ruling on the basis of how they feel about things, or on the basis of the law? That’s what I thought.

Maybe the ideal judge would be a Mentat, as imagined by Frank Herbert (or, to a lesser extent, a Bene Gesserit, who are also trained to override their emotions). Or Robert Heinlein’s Fair Witnesses. Of course, maybe the fact that my examples come from science fiction is an indication that such intellectual rigor and cool objectivity is impossible in the real world. Maybe.

But at least it ought to be an ideal that we strive for, rather than celebrating the possibility that a judge would rule on the basis of how he or she feels, or what groups they might identify — which frankly, as a believer in the Rule of Law, I find disturbing.

49 thoughts on “Why not a Mentat for the court?

  1. Lee Muller

    Expect to be further disturbed by Obama’s nominees to the bench.

    Like FDR, he wants to operate outside the Constitution, and he needs judges and biased and radical as himself, to enable his agenda.

    If the federal judiciary were not already so polluted with political hacks and anti-intellectuals, they would have already stopped TARP, the seizure of GM, Chrysler and the banks, and most of the wealth transfer programs enacted since 1933.

    Like all other societies with corrupt lawmakers and courts, this one will end up being fixed by a new generation who undo socialism, in the legislatures, or in the streets.

    Just like our unsustainable economic policies, the longer reform is postponed and avoided, the more harsh the remedy.

  2. Greg Flowers

    Brad, your viewpoint is not necessarily a conservative one but is one that leads to justice being meted out in a relatively consistent manner. Justice Breyer believes that the Constitution is a living document but applies it equally to all in a scholarly manner. I often disagree with both Breyer and Ginsberg but both are able jurists who view matters through a legal rather than an emotional lens.

    Wishing for a jurist “with a big heart” (actually Bill Clinton’s phrase) is removing the judiciary from its (in my opinion) goal to serve as an impartial referee bound only by the rule of law.

    I know that the next Justice will not be one with whom I agree on many matters but I would have hoped that it would have been one who felt constrained by the rule of law a la Beyer and Ginsberg. I can only hope that the current nominee, if confirmed, as she almost certainly will be, will surprise.

  3. Greg Flowers

    A sign our nation has grown: assuming Sotomayor is a practicing Roman Catholic what will the religeous makeup of the Court be after confirmation?

    Six Roman Catholic, two Jewish, one Protestant.

    The wonderful thing is that this has not been mentioned.

  4. Brad Warthen

    Ssshhh! Don’t tell anybody! As I’ve mentioned before, sotto voce, we’re taking over the Court. We Papists are clever, and patient…

  5. Brad Warthen

    As we like to say, “I would hope that a wise Catholic woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a Protestant male who hasn’t lived that life…”

  6. Greg Flowers

    Racial and ethnic targeting for the High Court has a mixed history in my lifetime.

    Johnson chose Thurgood Marshall because he was black. while he was supposedly a skilled and brave advocate he was not a good appellate jurist. His opinions were poorly written and thought out and he was more concerned with the result than the means used to get there. He so often followed the lead of William Brennan that pundits referred to them collectively as Justice Brennan-Marshall.

    Reagan chose O”Conner because she was a woman. She was a state appellate court judge and a former legislator. She did not have the intellectual heft of many other members and tended to seek political “split the difference” solutions. Scalia held her in intellectual contempt (his best friend on the Court is the liberal but very bright Ruth Bader Ginsburg with whom he and his wife attend the opera and celebrate New Year’s [with Ginsburg’s husband of course]).

    Bush I chose Thomas because he was a black conservative and the pickins there were rather slim. He has been widely derided by blacks but a VERY liberal friend who clerked for the court several years ago says he is a very bright and thoughtful man who is a fine judge.

    Ginsburg was chosen in part because she was a woman but also because she had an long and distinguished record in the law. I don’t often agree with her but feel that she is a fine judge.

    Assuming Sotomayor is confirmed, all of the Justices on the Court will have prior experience on the Circuit Court of Appeals which provides invaluable experience.

    One interesting fact is of the cases the Court decides each year (only about 75) most are decided by a 9-0 margin and most are also either matters of statutory interpretation or resolving different results between the various Circuit Courts. Only a relatively few are matters of Constitutional construction or are split “ideological” lines.

    My hope is that Sotomayor will consider herself to be a Supreme Court Justice, not a Female Supreme court Justice or a Latina Supreme Court Justice or a Voice for the Downtrodden and Oppressed.

    An interesting aside, Bill Clinton asked Dick Riley if he could put his name in nomination because Riley had a “big heart.” Riley, to his credit, declined saying that he was no legal scholar.

  7. Bart

    Good post Greg. We can only hope that Sotomayor will not judge from “the heart” and her rich, life’s experience as an Hispanic woman.

    Justice should be blind and equally applied to all regardless of circumstance, i.e., gender, race, sexual orientation, age, social status, economic situation, or anything else.

    I have my doubts and over the years have observed a bastardization of the nominating process and its absolute political overtones when a particular person is picked.

    It would be nice to hear Schumer use the same language about taking time and thoroughly vetting Sotomayor the way he did with Alito in 2005/2006. In fact, he insisted on it but now, he is pressing for little or no questioning and getting on with approving her as the next justice.

    I think fair is fair and she should be able to withstand the rigors of questioning but as I commented earlier, this is a political mine field for Republicans.

  8. Greg Flowers

    Of course the confirmation process has become almost useless as, since the Borking of Bork nominees refuse to answer almost any questions on their substantive legal views as the matter in question may come before the Court.

  9. Greg Flowers

    As we like to say, “I would hope that a wise Catholic woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a Protestant male who hasn’t lived that life…”

    Ah, the truth is out! Soon they’ll be burning Baptists in the town square.

  10. Brad Warthen

    Yeah, but we won’t be hasty about it. We’ll run them through the Inquisition first.

    Speaking of which — I wonder if Obama would nominate me for a spot on the Inquisition? I bet I’d be good at that…

  11. bj


    You should read her whole statement that qualifies and diminishes the point that you’ve made. This is not “The State” where you only have so many column inches. Read or print her whole statement.

  12. bj

    As you said Brad,

    “And yes, I know that to many liberals, this makes me sound like, at best, a cold fish. But folks, the law is a cold-fish thing, if it’s going to be fair. It’s about the intellect, not the emotions. My liberal friends, do you want Roberts or Scalia or Thomas ruling on the basis of how they feel about things, or on the basis of the law? That’s what I thought.”

    You didn’t mention Judge Alito above, but I presume you put him in the same class as Roberts, Scalia or Thomas, so please consider Alito’s statement in his confirmation hearings below:

    “JUDGE ALITO: Senator, I tried to in my opening statement, I tried to provide a little picture of who I am as a human being and how my background and my experiences have shaped me and brought me to this point. … And that’s why I went into that in my opening statement. Because when a case comes before me involving, let’s say, someone who is an immigrant — and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases — I can’t help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn’t that long ago when they were in that position. […]

    And that goes down the line. When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.”

    Your liberal friends think that when you use your argument in your post that you want a judge essentially like Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. when he said. “This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice.”

    However, there are many other statements he made that give a complex view of his judicial philosophy but essentially. “.. the cornerstone of Holmes’s judicial philosophy was his opinion that, ‘The life of the law has not been logic, but experience.’ He insisted that the court look at the facts in a changing society, instead of clinging to worn-out slogans and formulas. Holmes convinced people that the law should develop along with the society it serves. He exercised a deep influence on the law through his support of the doctrine of “judicial restraint” which urged judges to avoid letting their personal opinions affect their decisions.”

    Seemingly, a real conflict in judicial philosophy, but aren’t most people and most judges complex. Simply put, I do prefer judges with wisdom, which comes from life experiences, who render justice in their decisions, and I hope you do too. Thanks for your time and your blog.

  13. Dino

    Brad, seating Sotomayer on the Supreme Court could well present an opportunity not otherwise anticipated in our lifetime, but certainly provided by those who gave us our coveted U.S. Constitution — seating a non-lawyer on that court.

    Sotomayer may weigh her life experiences, as she has stated, to reach judicial opinions some interpret at conflict with the Constitution and case law as written to date. This would not be the first time, nor would it always lead to a favorable outcome for Sotomayer’s opinion. Dissenting or not, she would always be subject to razor-sharp pressure from a few of her peers.

    The longstanding monopoly of an entire branch of the federal government by lawyers, the majority of the U.S. Senate even excluding its Judiciary Committee, and over 30% of the U.S. House of Representatives by members of a single profession is outrageous on its face. Voters just cannot see it yet. Wonder why?

    A careful look by journalists and the public will confirm unconscionable conflicts of interest enabled by lawyers, particularly considering the unelected influences of well-heeled lobbyists (mostly lawyers) in D.C.

    Like it or not, Sotomayer may prove that reliance on case precedent and the written letter of the law (i.e. the necessity of formal legal education) is secondary. Voila! I want to see a commoner on my Supreme Court.

  14. Brad Warthen

    Ummm… I gotta tell you, when I’m hiring a Supreme Court justice, I’m going with a lawyer. Maybe that’s just me.

    Seriously, though, I get what you’re saying but I have to say that I’m not as bothered by lawyers in the legislative branch (lawyers writing laws) as you are. In my long experience with legislatures, county councils, etc., I’ve noted a tendency — the lawyers are the ones most likely to understand what’s going on. And I like that in an elected representative…

  15. Greg Flowers

    The system of common law is based upon the interpretation and application of precedent, skills taught to lawyers. I would not want a bright person with great life experience and a member of a historically underrepresented minority but no medical training performing a neurosurgical procedure on a family member. But maybe that’s just me.

  16. Dino

    Brad, “the lawyers are the ones most likely to understand what’s going on”
    Is that largely because they have read and understand arcane legal documents underlying the issues debated, have clients with vested interests in the outcomes, or possibly both?

    Greg Flowers,
    “I would not want a bright person with great life experience and a member of a historically underrepresented minority but no medical training performing a neurosurgical procedure on a family member.”
    No one would want that, nor is anyone proposing the practice of law by non-attorneys. What was envisioned by the framers was judging by non-attorneys. Why has that notion become inviolable? It should be an option to keep lawyers on their toes!

  17. Greg Flowers

    What was envisioned by the framers was judging by non-attorneys.

    Could you please cite some authority for this?

    So the surgery should be performed by doctors but the decision as to which surgical procedures are permissible should be, in part, in the hands of laymen? That would keep the medicos on their toes.

  18. Lynn Teague

    If Judge Sotomayor was in the habit of ruling according to her personal tastes to the extent that is being implied here, she would not have been able to function as a federal judge.

  19. Karen McLeod

    You’re right, Lynn. And Brad, as far as I can see, based on what I’ve been able to glean, Judge Sotomayor has stuck to applying the law, not making it. As I understand it, even in the case involving the firemen, it’s quite possible that she ruled based on what the government entity that threw out the test was allowed to do by law. Which would make it a very legal judicial ruling, even if it looked a lot like racial discrimination. And as for her statement about bringing her background and experiences to the job, everyone does that; there’s no way to avoid it. However, in the speech where she was talking about that she went on to say that she (as well as any other person) needed to consider that potential influence and be prepared to call it that, and rule by law, not by preference.

  20. Karen McLeod

    PS Brad, laws are created by humans, for humans. Do we really want something other than human (say a Mentat) interpreting them. That sounds almost as dangerous as the imminent return of the Inquisition.

  21. Kathryn Fenner

    Who makes coverage decisions at health insurance companies? Is it always MDs?
    Which it should be, of course…..

    We are all to one extent or other biased by our experiences. One thing they worked on teaching us at Emory Law School was how to transcend our subjectivity, but still, I suspect a mother will deep down feel differently, more likely, on certain issues, than a nonmother. A Jew, a Catholic, an atheist….

    Also, the perceived validity of the Court to those adjudicated. I would imagine that a divorce court that is equally likely to be headed by a man or a woman is less likely to feel biased to either gender. A court that reflects the racial make-up of its jurisdiction is less likely to seem to be railroading minorities….

  22. Greg Flowers

    A court that reflects the racial make-up of its jurisdiction is less likely to seem to be railroading minorities….

    Perception should not be the basis of judicial decision making

    If we get into pursuing a racially, ethnically, religiously and other wise balanced group so that one group or another cannot possibly perceive that they are being railroaded we put ourselves in an impossible position which will eventually pervert the ends of justice. Religion has become almost irrelevant to the decision making process, race and gender should do the same.

  23. Greg Flowers

    Who makes coverage decisions at health insurance companies? Is it always MDs?
    Which it should be, of course…..

    You are of course correct. A poor analogy on my part which does not detract from the strength of my belief that the matters considered by the the Supreme Court, most of which have nothing to do with constitutional law, are of such a complex, technical and LEGAL nature that a law degree should be the minimum requirement, followed by years of legal and appellate judicial experience.

  24. Harry Harris

    Folks, the Constitution didn’t change between Plessy and Brown (outside women’s suffrage). The jurists did. Arguing for a “cold” of “strict” legal system is just arguing for something that never was and never should be. The reality of living under laws actually does reveal whether those laws violate the intent of the Constitution.

    The “Catholic” issue would be as cute as some think it to be were it not for pressure from some i the hierarchy to coerce public officials who are catholic to vote and rule in accordance with their selective view of Church teaching. I’m sure you are aware of attempts and suggestions at the Archbishop level to deny communion to public officials over abortion issues. There is a long history of religious organizations attempting to shape culture, not based on the validity or persuasiveness of their positions, but based on the force of law.

  25. Greg Flowers

    Dino, I find nothing in your clips which supports your proposition that the framers intended non-lawyers to serve as judges on the federal courts, only that there is no legal requirement that they be, which is, of course, true.

    The Judiciary Committee has not consisted only of lawyers. Charles Grassley of Iowa was, I believe, a farmer.

    The Committee recommends no one but acts on the President’s nomination.

  26. Dino

    Greg –

    Chairmen of the Judiciary Committee have almost always been lawyers, and I clearly stated members of both the Senate and the committee are “mostly” lawyers.

    Here is another authoritative source for you:

    How can anyone fail to see a huge conflict of interest when 2 % of the workforce controls key organs of federal power intended to provide checks and balances over one another? Are you in doubt of the framer’s intention for checks and balances, as wewll?

  27. Lee Muller

    Until recently, you did not have to attend law school to become a lawyer. You only had to work under a lawyer for a few years and pass the bar exam. That is what Strom Thurmond and quite a lot of older judges did.

    Only a minority of those practicing law had received degrees from law schools at the time our Constitutions were ratified.

    Until the 1990s, the same was true of architects. If you had the experience under an architect and could pass the boards, you did not need a degree. This makes sense, too, because the exams are difficult, and many of those who work under architects are engineers who know more about the public safety aspects of design than architects. They should have kept it that way.

  28. Greg Flowers

    I’m sorry, we will just have to agree to disagree. I have no idea what the presence of lawyers on the bench has to do with the weakening of checks and balances.

  29. Bart

    If Obama is reelected in 2012, he will potentially be able to nominate and seat six, count’em, six Supreme Court justices before his second term ends in 2016.

    Justice John Paul Stevens is 79 years old.
    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is 76 years old and not in good health.
    Justice Antonin Scalia is 73, Justice Anthony Kennedy will be 73 this year, and Justice Steven Breyer will be 71 this year.

    Justice David Souter has retired and there is not a doubt that Sotomayor will be seated in October.

    By the end of his second term, Obama will probably have had the opportunity to have successfully turned the SCOTUS into the most unbalanced judicial body in the history of the United States. A body that will be represented by at least six liberals. This may be exceedingly pleasing to Democrats, liberals, and progressives but it will be a nightmare for America and democracy.

    Should justice truly be blind or should justice take an occasional peak from under her blindfold and consider the circumstances of a situation? Are there times when the weights used to balance the scales be weighted more in favor of one over the other? My belief is that justice should be applied equally and what is good for those at the top should be good for those at the bottom because it is a truism that those at the bottom are generally dealt with in a stricter manner than those at the top. I have witnessed this too many times in a simple venue like traffic court. There should be some latitude when applying the law to a situation but not to the point of being inequitable or creating an imbalance..

    Who was right and whose view be the more accepted, Sandra Day O’Connor or Sonia Sotomayor? O’Connor believed that at the end of the day, an old man and an old woman would reach the same conclusion over a judicial matter. Sotomayor believes a Latino woman with her rich, life’s experiences is more capable and by implication would reach a better conclusion than that of an old white man. (……..Suppose for a moment that Justice Roberts had made this same comment but in reverse, somewhere in his past before his nomination. There is no way in hell he would be sitting on the bench today as Chief Justice. He would be regulated to the trash pile of history along with Robert Bork…….)

    Abraham Lincoln made the following comment in his first inaugural address: ” If the policy of the government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court…the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned the government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.”

    My concern is that without a balance on the SCOTUS, the temptation to be even more of a judicial activist court will be unchecked and the sizeable majority will have more power over one ideology than all of the elected officials in this country combined.

    Something to think about. Not necessarily for today but the future because Sotomayor won’t create an imbalance. That will start when the next retirement is announced,

  30. Lee Muller

    The railroading of ethnic minorities by white male police and judges is history. The minority being railroaded these days is anyone of ability, who is told to move to the back of the line headed by those with the most preference points. Educated, experienced, highly-skilled middle-aged white men without physical handicaps, who have spent most of their lives in private enterprise or as officers in the military, are the greatest wasted resource in America today.

    Those in power force business to hire incompetent foreign workers to depress wages. They coerce promotions based on race and gender. If you are an Eskimo woman with a limp, no one can win a federal contract against you, even if you haven’t a clue about building bridges or whatever it is the plutocrats are wasting money on at the moment.

  31. Dino


    re: “I have no idea what the presence of lawyers on the bench has to do with the weakening of checks and balances.”

    Your habit of parsing out of context leads me to believe you may be a member of the bar or the press. No matter, here again, is what I actually said above (May 28, 2009 at 11:04 am):

    The longstanding monopoly of an entire branch of the federal government [the Judicial branch, of course] by lawyers, the majority of the U.S. Senate even excluding its Judiciary Committee, and over 30% of the U.S. House of Representatives by members of a single profession is outrageous on its face.

  32. Lee Muller

    Anyone who has attended law school can tell you that lawyering attracts the sort of people who have been politicians since middle school. A large percentage of law students entertain ambitions of being governor and President. The route to that is to become a prosecutor, keeping your name in the news through high-profile trials.

    A lot of them go into the legislature to promote their law practices, which are a legal cover for taking bribes that other professions don’t have, because you don’t have to actually produce anything for the money you receive. And when the voters toss your out, you can suddenly collect huge “retainer fees” which are just bribes held in escrow while you were in office. If you have a lot of influence with your cronies back in office, you can peddle that influence as a lobbyist, like Tom Daschle and Tommy Moore do.

    The only way to clean it up are:
    1. Term limits of 6 years, then a 6 year wait to run again.

    2. No legal or other work involving any legislation passed while you were in office, for 5 years.

    3. No lobbying for 5 years.

    4. No campaign donations outside your district.

    5. 100% recording of all contributions. That is easy to do today, especially with much of it coming over the Internet. No more of these millions of anonymous donations like Obama had, on phony cash cards from Wal-Mart in Palestine.

    5. No doing work for anyone business doing business with your government level while you are in office. No more of people like Bob Coble being on retainer from Bellsouth, AT&T and other businesses regulated by the City of Columbia. It just smells rotten.

  33. Greg Flowers

    The concept of balance of powers and the large number of lawyers in the judicial and political arenas have nothing to do with one another. Balance of powers relates to the relative power of the three branches of government. And in the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the bar.

  34. Lee Muller

    As a member of the bar, what is your opinion on the lack of legal challenges, both inside Congress and in the courts, to the Obama administration’s dictatorial actions regarding AIG, the banks, Wall Street brokers, GM, Chrysler and Ford? Since we have been heading towards this sort of socialist dictatorship for quite a while, it just coming sooner than later, why do you think so many attorneys in our legislature are less concerned about the Constitution than the laymen who serve in office?

  35. Greg Flowers

    I will admit to not knowing a great deal about that area of the law. However, as government does not respond to the same stimuli as business, excessive government involvement in the private sector warps and weakens it. For the love of Mike, if GE can’t make it (whether it be because they can’t produce a product people want or because of a canibalistic union) then just let them go under. The last thing we need are precious resources being used to prop up under-producers. It will be interesting to see when and if the government relinquishes its stake.

  36. slugger

    Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth seem to be the colleges that produce the most US Supreme Court Justices. The court is presently made up of only these school graduates to my knowledge.

    Makes you wonder. Why can’t we have a graduate of the USC law school etc. Could it be they are chosen from the most liberal colleges?

  37. Greg Flowers

    Very few would accuse Justices Thomas, Roberts, Alito and Scalia of being liberal. Top students tend to gravitate to the most competitive law schools. The current Court has 5 graduates of Harvard Law School, 2 from Yale, 1 from Columbia and 1 from Northwestern. I, personally, am more concerned about their intellect and professional abilities than their alma mater.

  38. Lee Muller

    A whole bunch of the law professors at USC and other state law schools are primarily from Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and NYU (taxation), so the influence extends far beyond just the courts.

    I wasn’t asking for an expert opinion on lawsuits to control federal agencies acting beyond the bounds of law, so much as a personal opinion on why so many lawyers seemed less concerned about the Contitutional integrity of our government than many laymen are.

    Having attended law school myself, my personal opinion is that the teaching of law is like a trade school, rather than a philosophical exploration of the history of the law which brought us to its present condition. “See this – cite this. If that doesn’t work, cite this.”

  39. Greg Flowers

    In my opinion, a good liberal arts undergraduate education should be where a lot of the philosophical exploration occurs. Law school is a professional school where the skills to practice in a very technical profession are taught. There are courses in Jurisprudence and the like and I learned a great deal about the philosophical underpinnings of certain areas in courses like antitrust. However, as I would not want a doctor or an account who knew only the philosophy I would think a law should have some technical knowledge of the law. It might be different if we were like the UK where Law is an undergraduate degree and one must serve an apprenticeship where one learns the nuts and bolts. Here one can hang out a shingle the day they are sworn in.

    why do you think so many attorneys in our legislature are less concerned about the Constitution than the laymen who serve in office?

    I can’t respond to this as you would like as I am not at all certain that it is true. I have concerns but I must say that they do not rise to the level of yours.

  40. slugger

    The justices are appointed for life or until they die or retire. This is a real problem with me. Just think how the mind can change over the course of a lifetime appointment. Some can become senile or take mind altering drugs for some medical condition.

    You do not elect politicians for a lifetime (but some do get re-elected to last a lifetime). Why would it be a good idea to appoint a person to sit on the US Supreme Court for that span of time? Some judges are appointed and some are elected in lower courts. I do not believe for a minute that a justice that is appointed for a lifetime is pure as the driven snow. They are humans after all with all the characteristics of the rest of us. You cannot corrupt an honest man.

  41. Greg Flowers

    The theory behind appointing judges for life is to free them from political pressures. I think that it works more often than it does not. The worst possible system for selecting judges is popular election. I really think our federal system works as well if not better than any other.

  42. Lee Muller

    Why do I think so many attorneys in our legislature are less concerned about the Constitution than the laymen who serve in office?

    Because I see them passing laws which are blatantly unConstitutional, without so much as discussing it. On the rare occasions when the issue is raised in session or by the public, they either brush it off, or often don’t know enough to give an intelligent answer.

    Attorneys, judges, and legislators take an oath to support and unhold the Constitution, then make every effort to circumvent the law. They see the Constitution for exactly what it is – a restraint on their blind ambition and lust for power – and they don’t like that.

  43. Greg Flowers

    They see the Constitution for exactly what it is – a restraint on their blind ambition and lust for power – and they don’t like that.

    That is a generalization which is, like most generalizations, untrue regarding most of the members of the class at which it is directed.

  44. Lee Muller

    It is not a generalization; it is my observation of those who set themselves up as the ruling class, and I have known a lot of them personally, some very well.

    Do you really think the typical legislator respects the Constitution?
    I don’t see any evidence of that.
    I see them scheming to get around the law.

    Probably 90% of the laws passed since 1933 are in violation of the Constitution. I could understand some gas station attendant in Congress or the legislature doing that, but you would expect lawyers to stop them. Instead, lawyers lead the way in twisting the intent of the Constitution. Otherwise, you would see the majority of lawyers outside the legislatures bringing suits to stop this subversion of our government. It isn’t happening.

  45. slugger

    I would like to come at this from another angle. The rights of the people. The legislature meets not to prepare a budget and spend a little money and then go home and do no more harm.

    They meet to take away our rights. They know what is best for us. We cannot take care of ourselves so they must pass laws to protect us from ourselves. I could list just the laws that are passed each year when they are in session but you know them as well as I know them.

    We do not elect people to show up in Columbia to not only take away our personal rights but to take away rights of the counties and put themselves in charge of issues that only affect one particular county. Read the SC Code of Laws and all the amendments. Most of these laws that are passed to take away our rights are not made public until you break the law.

    No more new laws would be one of the best things that could happen for our freedom as individuals. We do not need a keeper.

  46. Lee Muller

    Here is the latest example of idiotic legal rulings, fabricated out of thin air, contrary to precedent and history.

    The 7th Circuit rule that the 2nd Amendment is not incorporated into the 14th amendment, and not binding on the states.

    They said the right of self defense was pre-dated by the 14th, and was only part of common law.
    How so?

    The truth is, the 2nd Amendment precedes the 14th by quite a few years.
    The right to bear arms is not just part of common law, but was mandated by English statutory law, back to the time of Henry VIII, was part of the English Constitution of 1689, and was, for that reason, included in our Constitution as an immutable part of it, necessary for ratification. All states have ratified the 2nd Amendment as they joined the Union.

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