Sunday, July 12, 2009

Judging The Judges

Does anyone remember their civics lessons from High School?

Woo-hoo! A whole week of people who don't seem to remember those lessons is on tap! For those people, where is a brief synopsis:

The government of the United States is divided into three separate and equal branches; The Legislative – responsible for deciding what laws will govern the people – the legislative branch of the government is the representation of the people; The Executive – responsible for enforcing the law, the branch that contains the president and the vice-president; and The Judicial – the branch that rules on the law and verifies that what the other two branches do are in accords with those laws.

In order to maintain this balance of power, the Executive appoints (at a federal level – it varies from state-to-state and municipality-to-municipality) the Judicial staff and the Legislative approves those appointments before they become effective.

This has morphed over the years to this bizarre spectacle we will be watching this week. Time was that the president chose a judge based on the basis of their experience in or knowledge of the American system of jurisprudence. I am not saying that their views and ideals took no part in selection, which is simply a fact of being human; I'm just saying that the selection of judicial appointments was not as often based on the single-issue hot-button questions that it seems to have morphed into.

As a result, the approval of judges was, likewise, less of a dog-and-pony show. Unless the preeminent chose an obviously unqualified judge to place upon the court, the presidential selection was approved. This also meant that the hearings we will be seeing this week would have, in years past, be more a search for the experience and practical history of the judge rather than the ideological leanings and their likelihood to vote one-way-or-another on a specific issue.

It is this tendency toward ideological leanings in the appointment and vetting of judges that has lead us toward the circus we're likely to see this week. Granted, the opposition party has little-to-no chance to successfully block this appointment with the overwhelming size of the majority, but they will likely harp of the oft-quoted and out of context "wise Latina" comment. It has been so widely covered out of the context of the speech, that it is unlikely that most Americans realize that there was a speech around the statement that made it clear that she was not saying anything that isn't often said by everyone: "My experience makes me who I am."

So, it is a week of cynical coverage of cynical or sycophantic questioning of a judge who, when it comes right down to it, is no better or worse than the average of the court as a whole today that we are looking forward to. Watch-out for the spin!

Wherever you are today, I hope that you're having a great day!

Don Bergquist – July 12, 2009 – Lakewood, Colorado, USA

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