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Monday, October 03, 2005

Agnostic Justices

With the recent Supreme Court vacancies, we were all awaiting a political Armageddon manifested in the form of nominations and confirmations for new justices. The Roberts confirmation was rather uneventful compared to the spectacle we were promised by pundits. Perhaps the Miers confirmation will be more confrontational for the Senate committee. However, if all justices abided by the strict constructionist viewpoint that I was taught in civics, none of this should really matter.

In a simple elementary school definition, the judicial branch of government interprets the laws; the legislative branch makes them. Therefore, legislating from the bench should not be a concern if our justices were trusted to interpret laws based on precedent rather than creating laws based on personal convictions.

While evaluating some cases, there will be no precedents against which to measure. It is these cases where the personal philosophies of the justices are of the utmost concern. The desire to create precedent based on personal principles is tempting; however, our justices must not succumb to its temptation. Instead, more obscure, loosely related precedents must be reviewed for guidance while keeping in mind the strict guidelines set forth in the United States Constitution. Looking to foreign law and international sentiment is not acceptable for a sovereign nation’s self governance.

The Supreme Court’s rulings are rendered by nine justices by a majority rule. This helps to diffuse the partisan nature of personal politics by diluting the individual’s power. I tend to think close 5-4 decisions would not occur down party lines if the justices strictly adhered to case law rather than self-created law. I wonder how many decisions would be correct – in terms of keeping with precedent and the Constitution – as opposed to siding with the opinions based on feelings of conservative or liberalism. We may not “morally” agree with a decision, but we have less to argue when it is based on established foundations of our republic.

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