Gorsuch schools America on the judiciary

The indentured servants are neglecting their duties attending to the Squire here at the Stately Manor. They are splayed out on the floor of the Walter Winchell Memorial Media Room watching the Neil Gorsuch nomination hearing this week.

Should be required viewing on college campuses for the education it offers on the separation of powers.

old PhilcoI watched enough of Monday’s prologue, wherein each of the Senators got their kick at the piñata. One can only marvel at the nominee’s ability to hold that smile when praised or look intently but respectfully concerned as he is being pilloried. When Gorsuch (at long last, Senator, have you no sense of concision) got his chance to speak he nailed it. He started out with family, reaching back two generations, for the “humanizing” bit. Hey, it worked — even if the skunked dog in the family car came out a little Disney.

Then he got to the meat of an independent judiciary — it interprets the law, it does not make it. Which is the central contention of these hearings. As Chairman Grassley, R-Iowa, noted today (3-21-17), the Democrats want an independent justice who will hew to their agenda — or, as Sen. Feinstein, D-California, put it: “How do we know you won’t be for the Big Corporations?”

Judge Gorsuch, you have the floor:

… These days we sometimes hear judges cynically described as politicians in robes. Seeking to enforce their own politics rather than striving to apply the law impartially. But I just don’t think that’s what a life in the law is about.

… Putting on a robe reminds us that it’s time to lose our egos and open our minds. It serves, too, as a reminder of the modest station we judges are meant to occupy in a democracy. In other countries, judges wear scarlet, silk, and ermine. Here, we judges buy our own plain black robes. And I can report that the standard choir outfit at the local uniform supply store is a pretty good deal. Ours is a judiciary of honest black polyester.

When I put on the robe, I am also reminded that under our Constitution, it is for this body, the people’s representatives, to make new laws. For the executive to ensure those laws are faithfully enforced. And for neutral and independent judges to apply the law in the people’s disputes. If judges were just secret legislators, declaring not what the law is but what they would like it to be, the very idea of a government by the people and for the people would be at risk. And those who came to court would live in fear, never sure exactly what governs them except the judge’s will. As Alexander Hamilton explained, “liberty can have nothing to fear from” judges who apply the law, but liberty “ha[s] every thing to fear” if judges try to legislate too.

… The truth is, a judge who likes every outcome he reaches is probably a pretty bad judge, stretching for the policy results he prefers rather than those the law compels.

Pre-empting the partisans

Starting off the second day’s session, Sen. Grassley well anticipated the Democrats’ onslaught. The chairman asked the nominee to approve or disapprove of hot-button decisions like Heller (gun rights), Citizens United (free speech), Roe v Wade, and one other that bothers conservatives (with which your bloggeur is unfamiliar).

Gorsuch answered that each deserved respect as a legal precedent, a subject (precedence) about which he has written authoritatively. That, of course, did not stop Democrats from trying to breach the walls, without success.

If they thought they were going to get Neil Gorsuch to say “You got me there, Senator,” they are being disappointed. And yes, appellate judge Gorsuch has, from time to time, ruled in favor of Big Corporations.

A judge like Gorsuch (and Scalia before him) hews to original intent, the law as written — not as desired. That is what so concerns our Democrat(ic) acquaintances. What they could not legislate by winning elections they hope to impose through judicial fiat (the “living Constitution”) or administrative legerdemain. The latter, itself, is especially at risk in a Trump White House and a Gorsuch court. But it is also a warning to Republicans who never understood why Chief Justice Roberts upheld Obamacare. Words — like elections — matter.

Compelling television

The Gorsuch hearing and the FBI-NSC hearing on Russian influence are both compelling television. Tried to figure out the picture within a picture feature but the Manor’s aged Philco doesn’t have it, apparently.

The Army-McCarthy hearing of 1954 is said to have made ABC as a new television network. If you get a chance, catch “Point of Order,” the documentary made of those hearings. It is riveting.

Since then, maybe four congressional hearings are as compelling, two of them over Supreme Court nominees.

• The Watergate hearings chaired by that old boy senator from North Carolina with the dancing eyebrows, Sam Ervin.

• The 1987 Iran-Contra hearings produced a breakout star, Ollie North.

• The 1987 hearing where Ted Kennedy invented the verb (transitive) “to bork.”

• Joe Biden’s high-tech lynching of Clarence Thomas, 1991.

What are we missing?


About David Blaska

Madison WI
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5 Responses to Gorsuch schools America on the judiciary

  1. Dan B. says:

    LOL! The characteristic you admire in a federal justice you ignore in our state’s version. Wisconsin’s Republican justices are decidedly politicians, complete with direct and embarrassing pandering to moneyed interests. They also legislate from the bench, despite declaring otherwise. Prediction: The court formed when this Senate, so concerned about filling Scalia’s seat with another Scalia, replaces Ginsburg with a hard-right judge will write more law than Congress has in the last decade.


    • old baldy says:

      Dan B.:
      I agree, daves hypocrisy regarding the WI SC is amusing. Several had the opportunity to recuse themselves when ruling on issues where there was either a clear or implied conflict of interest and they declined. Bought and paid for, and elected by WMC.

      I also agree that the replacement for Ginsburg will be to the right of Attila the Hun, unless she decides to live to an even riper old age, of the whole administration goes down in flames.


  2. David Blaska says:

    I know it’s too much to expect examples, Dan B. So I would only point out that there must be a whole boatload of “moneyed interests” in our state because the people of Wisconsin elected our supreme court and voted in referendum to remove Shirley Abrahamson as chief justice.l


  3. madisonexpat says:

    But David, persuading voters to elect representatives to legislate is hard. Much better to find judges to make laws instead. You know, folks who can imagine emanations from a penumbra but can’t find a right to bear arms.


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