O’Connor Uses U.S. Supreme Court to Push Her Political Views

July 22nd, 2014

The method a state uses to choose its judges and other public servants is an inherently political question that should be left to the people of the state.  So why is retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor using the good name of the nation’s highest court to push her personal political views on the subject of judicial selection?

Recently a report authored by O’Connor was released by O’Connor announcing the O’Connor Judicial Selection Plan.  The Plan itself (surprise, surprise) is merely warmed over “merit” selection.  But O’Connor serves up this hash with a self-congratulatory letter on stationary from the “Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, DC.”

Now, O’Connor could have easily released her letter on plain stationary, her own personal stationary, or stationary from The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, which published the document.  What possible reason could O’Connor have for using official-looking Supreme Court stationary other than to give the impression that her personal political views over judicial selection enjoy the imprimatur of the highest court in the land?  With “merit” selection under attack in many states (Kansas, Tennessee, Florida), should O’Connor really be using the U.S. Supreme Court as cover to wade into a highly contentious issue?

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The Battle is on in Tennessee

July 22nd, 2014

Early voting has started in Tennessee, with voters set to decide on August 7 whether to retain three state Supreme Court justices.  A new ad by the Tennessee Forum, a group pushing for a more conservative court, has elicited the usual wailing about “bare knuckle” campaigning by Justice at Stake and other left-wing groups, but the data on ad spending hardly justifies the hysteria.  According to news reports, the Tennessee Forum has spent just over $119,000 on ads, compared to the more than $201,000 spent by groups supporting the justices.  Some crisis.

The real issue here is not campaign spending, but judicial accountability.  For years, selection to Tennessee’s highest court has been a clubby, insider’s game dominated by lawyers.  The result has been judges increasingly insulated from the people they serve, answering only to the legal special interests that helped them get on the bench.  No wonder more than 92 percent of Tennessee lawyers polled by the Tennessee Bar Association favor retaining their cronies in the upcoming election.

The decision over who serves on Tennessee’s courts rightly belongs to the people, not the lawyers’ guild.  The fight over replacing the three justices signals that voters are sick and tired of an unaccountable court serving only the interests of the state’s legal elite.

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The Intolerance of Today’s Professional Left

July 15th, 2014

Many hoped the repugnant suggestion that Catholic public servants in the U.S. can’t be trusted to follow the Constitution because they are in secret league with the Vatican died with the election of John F. Kennedy to the presidency over 50 years ago.  Yet today’s Professional Left has resurrected (no pun intended) this long discredited form of bigotry with a full-page ad in the New York Times attacking what it calls the “all-male, all-Roman Catholic majority” on the U.S. Supreme Court.

This latest anti-Catholic smear was occasioned by the Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision, which the left sees as evidence of the “growing dangers of theocracy” in America.  Given the heated rhetoric, you’d think the Court was ordering all American women to retreat behind burkas.  As it turns out, the ruling simply means Hobby Lobby will continue to provide coverage for 16 of the 20 FDA-approved forms of birth control – from condoms and diaphragms to the pill and contraceptive patches.

So far, the gavel grabbers over at Justice at Stake, those supposedly fearless defenders of judicial independence, have been silent on this odious attack on the Court.  All of which goes to show that “judicial independence” is merely a totem used by Justice at Stake and other groups on the left to advance their political goals, rather than to protect the integrity of our courts.

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Democrats Against Judicial Independence

July 11th, 2014

The Professional Left loves to rail against business groups and conservatives who object to court decisions, claiming that the mere questioning of rulings or calls to vote out a judges represents some sort of mortal threat to judicial independence.  This is a mere pose, of course, as the top-ranking House Democrat demonstrated yesterday.

According to one-time House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision was “a frightening one.”  She warned that Americans “should be afraid of this court.”  And she even folded a neat little lie into her jeremiad in an effort to inflame public opinion against the Court: “That five guys should start determining what contraceptives are legal or not….It is so stunning.”

Hobby Lobby says absolutely nothing about “what contraceptives are legal.”  It merely limits the federal government’s power to mandate what contraceptives must be provided as part of certain employer health plans.  Yet Pelosi wants America to believe that the Court’s ruling means armed guards will soon be patrolling the condom aisle at the local CVS, questioning the contraceptive choices of customers.

The lesson in Pelosi’s hysterical (and false) attack is that the Professional Left could care less about judicial independence.  It’s a lesson business groups should keep in mind before joining supposedly nonpartisan coalitions that purport to fight for nothing more than independent courts.  The left’s commitment to that idea lasts only as long as the next court decision they oppose.

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The Hypocrisy of the Left

July 1st, 2014

According to the Professional Left, if Americans don’t like a specific court decision, they have a duty to just shut up and take it.  We’ve seen this pose over and over – such as President Obama’s consistent refrain that his health care scheme is the “settled … law of the land”; as if any disagreement with Obamacare represents some sort of extra-constitutional attack on judicial independence.

Unless, of course, a court hands down a ruling that doesn’t jibe with the Left’s rigid ideology.  Then all bets are off and all attacks justified, judicial independence bedamned.

Consider the reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision yesterday, which held that the federal government couldn’t force closely held companies to provide health care services inconsistent with their religious beliefs.  The House’s leading Democrat slammed the ruling as “an outrageous step” that sets a “dangerous precedent” – a “deeply misguided and destructive” decision.  No doubt the White House is busily constructing a way to work around the ruling and impose its brand of morality on the American people.

The truth is, the Left could care less about judicial independence.  All it’s protestations have nothing to do with protecting our courts and everything to do with power politics.  The goal is to use judicial independence as a weapon to delegitimize opposition to its policies and shut down public debate.  That’s why the courts themselves have become the true political battleground in American politics.

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Legal Special Interest Vows to Fight Back in NC

June 25th, 2014

Incoming North Carolina Bar Association president Catharine Biggs Arrowood unleashed an attack on groups that exercise their First Amendment rights to participate in Tarheel judicial elections and vowed that legal special interest groups – led by the NC Bar – will step up efforts to sway voters to elect their preferred candidates.

Of course, Arrowood couches all this in condemnations about the “flood of outside money in our judicial races” and the “ads they spawn.”  She frets about the “reputation of lawyers” being “slandered” and “slimed” and the “good work of lawyers go[ing] unnoticed.”

But as you dig a little deeper, you discover Arrowood’s real concern:  She’s afraid voters will tune out the NC Bar and fail to rubber stamp its judicial favorites.  She complains that it’s “hard to compete” with what she calls the “scare tactics and misinformation” in today’s political ads.  She’s worried the public will ignore the NC Bar’s carefully prepared Judicial Performance Evaluation, which spoon-feeds voters the preferences of the state’s legal elite.  And she pledges to “do a better job publicizing” these insider reviews, including through a NC Bar-sponsored website, ElectNCJudges.org.

In other words, she’s turning the NC Bar into a campaign organization.

Of course, lawyers in North Carolina are free to exercise their First Amendment rights to jump into judicial elections – but it’s high time they understand that other groups have the same right to be heard.

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“Official Records Don’t Just Disappear Without a Trace”

June 19th, 2014

Last week, the Obama IRS claimed that critical emails related to the illegal targeting of conservative groups were “unrecoverable” due to the mysterious crash of Lois Lerner’s hard drive.  I guess the IRS just expected everyone to take their word for it.  But then dozens of IT experts came forward to dispute the IRS’s absurd claim that this data was lost forever.  And Congressman Darrell Issa, who is leading a House investigation of the matter, issued a subpoena for the damaged hard drive in order to give investigators a chance to do what technologically-challenged IRS bureaucrats couldn’t.

As they must have said over at the IRS this week … oops!  So now the IRS has a new story.  Not only are the emails unavailable to congressional investigators, Lerner’s hard drive can’t be turned over.  Because the IRS threw it in the trash.  As an irate Rep. Issa put it in a blistering statement:

“If the IRS truly got rid of evidence in a way that violated the Federal Records Act and ensured the FBI never got a crack at recovering files from an official claiming a Fifth amendment protection against self-incrimination, this is proof their whole line about ‘losing’ emails in the targeting scandal was just on more attempted deception … official records, like the emails of a prominent official, don’t just disappear without a trace unless that was the intention.”

All this from the administration that claims to be the most transparent in history.

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Special Interest Groups Rally Around Tennessee Justices

June 19th, 2014

Tennessee’s lawyer’s guild is circling the wagons around three Tennessee Supreme Court justices up for retention on August 7.  According to news reports, the Nashville Bar Association is lobbying its members to keep the three on the bench, while “prominent Nashville attorneys” have raised $100,000 in campaign cash.  Other reports claim up to $600,000 has been raised.  And a poll just released by the Tennessee Bar Association reveals that 9 out of 10 lawyers want to keep the three justices – poll numbers that would make Vladimir Putin blush.

It’s hardly surprising that legal elites want to protect their own.  But there’s another motive at stake here – the profit motive.  Tennessee’s current liberal-dominated Supreme Court has a history of handing down trial lawyer-friendly decisions, according to a PowerPoint deck being circulated by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey.  And Ramsey also warns that Tennessee’s recently enacted tort reform legislation could be tossed aside when it comes up for review.  Unless, of course, voters change the court’s direction this August.

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An Epidemic of Hard Drive Crashes at the IRS

June 18th, 2014

Apparently Lois Lerner isn’t the only IRS agent under investigation for illegally targeting conservatives to have a hard drive mysteriously “crash,” which the IRS claims makes relevant emails “unrecoverable.”  Now the IRS says at least six more high-ranking employees emails have been lost, including those from the time period when “the Washington, DC [IRS] office wrote and directed the Cincinnati field office to send abusive questionnaires, including inappropriate demands for donor information, to conservative group,” according to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Last year, President Obama’s blatant falsehood – “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it” – was named Lie of the Year by PolitiFact.  The frontrunner for Lie of the Year 2014 has to be Obama’s claim that there’s “not even a smidgen of corruption” in the IRS targeting scandal.

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A Victory for Free Speech at the Supreme Court

June 17th, 2014

Can a politician be criticized by private groups that oppose his/her stand on certain issues?  Sounds like a pretty straight-forward First Amendment right.  Except, apparently, in Ohio, where bureaucrats at the Ohio Elections Commission blocked the pro-life Susan B. Anthony list from putting up a billboard critical of Congressman Steve Driehaus for his support for Obamacare.

The Susan B. Anthony list sued, but a federal appeals court threw out the case.  The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the lower court in a 9-0 decision, allowing the case to move forward.  As a Wall Street Journal editorial put it, “in a democracy, voters rather than a priesthood of regulators are obliged to sort out the truth or falsity of political claims.”

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