Judge not lest ye be judged

People who know me in person also know that nothing is more likely to send my blood pressure spiking than talk about judges. (To any of my readers who are in fact judges, I’m sure you’re the exception to anything nasty I might be about to say about judges.) I dislike judges, something that is almost certainly a product of having practiced law in the San Francisco Bay Ara for the entire length of my career.

In the Bay Area, the vast majority of judges act as if they consider their judicial robes the equivalent of a priest’s vestments. This means that, rather than being constrained by the law, they believe that they have some sort of direct connection, not to God (whose laws exert moral control over the priest), but to some higher liberal morality located somewhere around each judge’s own navel. The practical result of this is that rulings almost invariably favor politically correct parties over legally correct parties.

This lack of judicial temperament is on its most blatant display in the trial courts. It’s been about 15 years, but I still haven’t recovered from the trial court judge (now an appellate court judge) who said to me “I don’t care what the law is; I think there’s something here.” Although few judges were as open about their reluctance to apply the law, the deceit that emanates from the bench to justify manifestly wrong decisions indicates that there are a lot of judges out there who “don’t care what the law is.”

The appellate courts are not immune — which is unsurprising, I guess, given that they’re made up of former trial court judges. Several years ago, I worked on a case that saw the justices lie about the underlying facts in order to achieve their preferred outcome. This was a particularly vicious little thing to do, since the case (which was published) looks perfect on its face, with stated facts inexorably driving towards an inevitable legal conclusion — except that the stated facts were false, and the underlying record proved their falsity.

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The other day, an opinion came down that saw the judges being a little less clever. They simply lied about the law itself. Worse, it was a simple enough lie to track down, because they quoted from a case to justify their holding — except that the case from which they quoted said the exact opposite of the principle they claimed to derive from that earlier ruling. Since they’re appellate judges, which is an office reserved for quality lawyers, I’m going to acquit them of carelessness and stupidity, which leaves only malice.

All of the above griping is a lead-in to an article Thomas Sowell wrote saying that, if judges are going to act like politicians, its time to treat them that way, and vote them out of office:

Arrogant politicians who do this [pass laws that directly contravene the Constitution] are dismantling the Constitution piecemeal – which is to say, they are dismantling America.

The voters struck back, as they had to, if we are to keep the freedoms that define this country. The Constitution cannot protect us unless we protect the Constitution by getting rid of those who circumvent it or disregard it.

The same thing applies to judges. The runaway arrogance that politicians get when they have huge majorities in Congress is more or less common among federal judges with lifetime tenure or state judges who are seldom defeated in elections to confirm their appointments to the bench.

The problem, of course, is that judges function under the radar. Even in elections, voters usually know nothing about them. When it comes time to mark the ballot, the voters either abstain or they pick a name at random. As often as not, the judges (at least in California) run unopposed, which means that votes are irrelevant.

If judges would act like judges — if they would be impartial arbiters ensuring that the Constitution controls overall and that constitutional laws are enforced as written — I would have no problem with lifetime tenure which, in theory, keeps the judges out of the political fray and, therefore, makes them less likely to engage in the type of favoritism that would ensure them reelection. However, decades of liberal ideology in the court means that judges are not impartial arbiters. They are, instead, political players who need to be called to account.

Cross-posted at Bookworm Room

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