Judicial Autocracy

Voting begins next week on the nomination of John Roberts as Chief Justice. And within days the president is expected to announce another nominee to replace Sandra Day O’Connor. The Supreme Court is receiving a level of attention unlike anything we’ve seen before. And Christians need to take this opportunity to educate themselves and their neighbors on why these nominations are so important. I do not know Roberts, but on the basis of the public record, I find his nomination encouraging. This is the man who, back in 1983, wrote with dry understatement, “So long as the court views itself as ultimately responsible for governing all aspects of our society, it will, understandably, be overworked.” This is the philosophy of judicial restraint, which has guided John Roberts in his entire career. In a country where the courts now see themselves as entitled to legislate nearly every aspect of life, Roberts’s words are refreshing. But despite his outstanding record—the highest rating by the ABA, Harvard, and Harvard LawSchool, a distinguished public career, and service on the second highest court in America—Roberts has been bitterly assailed by special-interests, like the National Organization for Women, People for the American Way, and others. Listen to what Women’s eNews charged: As a federal government official, Roberts “failed miserably to protect—let alone advance—women’s reproductive rights and access to health care services.” The National Organization for Women said this: “Roberts’s attitudes aren’t conservative; they’re simply backward. And women can’t afford to go that direction.” But the purpose of Senate confirmation hearings is not to check whether a nominee’s “attitudes” are “backward” or to advance some agenda. It is to determine whether that nominee is qualified for this position. This is typical, however, of the over-the-top charges being thrown at Roberts. And just this Sunday, the New York Times, America’s premier newspaper, editorially opposed his confirmation. Too many uncertainties, the Times says, over how he’ll decide issues. But to signal how you are going to decide issues in the future violates every standard of judicial ethics. What’s going on here? At the heart of this debate is simply the fact that special-interests groups who have lost their arguments in Congress and with the public look to the courts to deliver for them. Anybody who favors judicial restraint, no matter how well qualified, is going to be opposed. That’s basically what the New York Times is saying. Tom DeLay explained it perfectly at Justice Sunday II, a few weeks ago. “Time and time again,” he said, “proponents of . . . policies which have little or no support in the elected branches of government . . . bypass the democratic process by way of activist courts. Activist courts, in turn, impose new policies on our nation without passing a single bill through a single house of a single legislature. That is not judicial independence. That is judicial supremacy, judicial autocracy. It has no basis in the Constitution, but merely in the frustrated imagination of an out-of-touch political movement whose worldview the American people simply will not endorse.” Well said. The fact that Judge Roberts refuses to go along with this kind of judicial usurpation is the strongest point in his favor. Let’s work to ensure that the Senate does its duty.


Chuck Colson


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