Sandra Day O'Connor Denounces JAIL4Judges - Wall Street Journal
September 27, 2006, 12:16 pm
SDO Decries “JAIL 4 Judges” and Other Attacks on Judiciary
Posted by Peter Lattman
Have you heard about this South Dakota ballot initiative to pass a state constitutional amendment that would eliminate judicial immunity? Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has, and in today’s WSJ she attacks it and other threats to judicial independence.
The amendment has been advocated by a national group called “JAIL 4 Judges.” If it passes, it would eliminate judicial immunity and enable a special grand jury to censure judges for their official rulings. Though the JAIL acronym stands for “judicial accountability initiative law,” writes SDO, “they aspire to something far more sinister — judicial intimidation.”
O’Connor says that at least three other states have launched efforts to rein in judges who have supposedly “run amok.” More evidence of efforts to police judges: (1) members of Congress pushing measures that would forbid judges from citing foreign law when interpreting the Constitution; (2) bills introduced supporting the creation of an inspector general to investigate and monitor the federal bench; (3) House legislation passed over the summer that would prohibit the Supremes from considering the whether the Pledge of Allegiance’s inclusion of the words “under God” violates the First Amendment.
While scorn for certain judges is not an altogether new phenomenon, the breadth and intensity of rage currently being leveled at the judiciary may be unmatched in American history. The ubiquitous “activist judges” who “legislate from the bench” have become central villains on today’s domestic political landscape. Elected officials routinely score cheap points by railing against the “elitist judges” . . . Several jeremiads are published every year warning of the dangers of judicial supremacy and judicial tyranny. Though these attacks generally emit more heat than light, using judges as punching bags presents a grave threat to the independent judiciary.
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This is not merely an attempt to intimidate judges, it is part of an overall effort to constrain free speech, religion and conscience on issues of public concern, not seen in this country on this scale since the days of Joseph McCarthy.
Comment by September 27, 2006 at 12:31 pm -
While I am a strong supporter of “judicial independence,” the judges are bringing this upon themselves by, for example, granting qualified immunity to police. Simply, this is favoritism, allowing the police to get away with their crimes, such as “testilying” and assault and battery.
Comment by September 27, 2006 at 1:35 pm -
The sad commentary on our society is that we even have to have this discussion. I have great respect for anyone who dedicates their life to the law. But is disturbing that I have to teach my children that the law has nothing to do with right and wrong, only with who can argue their case in front of a judge that has no common sense.
Comment by September 27, 2006 at 1:45 pm -
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Comment by September 27, 2006 at 2:33 pm -
Comment by September 27, 2006 at 6:32 pm -
The citizens in the USA are extremely displeased with attorneys as a group, and many rightly see Judges as part of the same crowd. All too often judges at the state level (for example) move into and out of private law firms, which intensifies this impression. There are many other ways that judges wind up profiting by having maintained good relations with law firms along the way, whether they collect these benefits at the next election or in “retirement” from the bench.
So, due to the growth in firm-level economic power and the types of potential economic ties between judges and the private legal industry, trust that the judiciary is independent has been compromised.
Also, it is EXTREMELY obvious, again, mostly at the state level, the the “disciplining” of attorneys is at best woefully inadequate, and at worst a complete sham. Again, state judiciaries are usually the oversight vehicle for attorney discipline — and their oversight has been far from what it should be for now decades.
Ergo, the people’s loss of trust in judges is catching up with their complete loss of trust in attorneys.
Having said all of that, we must all remember that among the most important duty of the judiciary is to insure that all people are treated equally under the law. And the funny thing is, that life’s twists and turns can make just about anyone into a minority in need of equal treatment. Any American white male could suffer a spinal injury and suddenly find himself on the side of those seeking “accessible” buildings via ADA . Or he could wish to parent his own child and seek to be made primary parent on his merits despite decades of gender bias against him simply for being male.
A good judiciary is needed to take care of each of us in this country and give us equal treatment under the law.
In my view, the best thing the judiciary could do to regain the trust of the people in America is to (1) distance itself from private law firms, (2) start holding private lawyers’ feet to the fire in terms of ethics and aggressive attorney discipline, and (3) get back to the roots of the judiciary in this country — as the branch which makes sure we are a nation of equals under the law — not a nation which has been subjugated by the interests and greed of private lawyers.
Comment by September 27, 2006 at 10:25 pm -
One would think that Judges might learn something from the experience of being held liable for every action, non-action, and utterance just like the rest of us.
Only then would they truly understand how unsafe life can look in this country from the perspective of a non-judge, non-lawyer citizen.
Comment by September 28, 2006 at 5:47 pm -
The JUSTICE has been removed from the “front lines’ so long she has lost touch. I would like for her to review some of the judicial misconduct allegations that are dismissed with “canned language”. She should start with me. The Judicial Oath, Canons of Judicial COnduct and Rules of Procedure are dead in the 11th U.S. Circuit
Comment by September 28, 2006 at 6:09 pm -
Justice O’Connor might be shocked if she undertook a couple month research project by going in disguise, and sitting with the public in various state courts in this country, observing what goes on there first hand.
Comment by September 29, 2006 at 2:58 pm -