Special Opinion to the Mirror by Paul Plante
Dear Chief Justice John Glover Roberts Jr.:
Recently, you were widely quoted in the media your capacity as Chief Justice of the United States saying as follows, to wit:
“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.”
“What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.”
As a loyal American citizen who is older than you, and who has sufficient experience with the federal court system as a civil rights litigant to have formed an informed opinion about it, and who in fact has been harmed, and intentionally so, by the federal court system you have chosen to defend in your recent op-ed, I would like to take this opportunity in this op-ed to challenge both of those statements, to show that they are not true, and are in fact, quite false.
First of all, Justice Roberts, yes, we do have Bush judges and Obama judges, as we can clearly see from an Associated Press article entitled “Obama pick for bench blocked by GOP for first time” by Larry Margarsak on May 19, 2011, as follows:
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama lost his first vote on a judicial nominee Thursday, as Senate Republicans derailed the nomination of a liberal professor who leveled acerbic attacks against two conservative Supreme Court nominees — both now justices.
Democrats fell short of the 60 votes they need to end a filibuster and give Goodwin Liu an up-or-down vote on his nomination to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Liu, a 40-year-old legal scholar at the University of California’s Berkeley law school, could someday be a dream Supreme Court nominee for liberals.
Republicans have made Liu their prime example of a judicial nominee who, in their view, has been so unabashedly liberal in his writings and statements that he does not deserve an up-or-down vote.
The politics were reversed in 1987, when Democrats defeated Republican Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork by citing his conservative writings.
Liberals said Bork was a conservative extremist, just as conservatives now say Liu is a liberal extremist.
In both cases, opponents argued the nominees would take their views with them to the bench, allowing those views to trump the Constitution.
To most Democrats and liberal backers, Liu is the type of nominee they want for a lifetime appointment on the federal bench.
He supports liberal social issues such as gay marriage and affirmative action.
To most Republicans and conservative allies, he’s a judicial activist who made insulting remarks about the Supreme Court nominations of John Roberts, now the chief justice, and Samuel Alito.
Two senators favoring a continued filibuster were Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
“The nomination of Mr. Goodwin Liu does rise to a level of extraordinary circumstances and therefore McCain will seek to filibuster the nomination,” McCain’s office said in a statement Wednesday.
“His outrageous attack on Judge Alito convinced me that Goodwin Liu is an ideologue.”
“Goodwin Liu should run for elected office, not serve as a judge.”
“Ideologues have their place, just not on the bench.”
Republicans and conservatives believe Liu expressed his true judicial philosophy in a radio interview after Obama’s election.
He said then that liberals “have the opportunity to actually get our ideas and the progressive vision of the Constitution and of law and policy into practice.”
Liu had said Alito’s vision was an America “where police may shoot and kill an unarmed boy … where federal agents may point guns at ordinary citizens during a raid, even after no sign of resistance … where the FBI may install a camera where you sleep … where a black man may be sentenced to death by an all-white jury for killing a white man, absent … analysis showing discrimination.”
Writing about the chief justice as a nominee, Liu said that “with remarkable consistency throughout his career, Roberts … applied his legal talent to further the cause of the far right.”
So there we clearly have an Obama judge.
As to a Clinton judge, we have the Congressional Record Volume 150 Number 7 from Wednesday January 28, 2004), the Senate, Pages S304-S307, EXECUTIVE SESSION – NOMINATION OF GARY L. SHARPE TO BE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE, as follows:
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The junior Senator from New York.
Mrs. CLINTON. Madam President, I rise in very strong support of the nomination of Magistrate Judge Gary Lawrence Sharpe who has been nominated to the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York.
I ask all of my colleagues to support this nomination.
I think he will not only serve with distinction in New York but demonstrate clearly that this is the kind of conservative Republican nominee whom we could be unanimously confirming.
I commend him to the Senate.
I thank the Chair.
And as to a Bush judge, we have as follows from USA Today, to wit:
“Bush’s Judges Already Making Their Mark”
By Nancy Benac, Associated Press Writer
July 10, 2005
WASHINGTON – No need to wait until President Bush appoints a Supreme Court justice to see how he will make his mark on the federal judiciary.
One level down, dozens of conservative appeals court judges appointed by Bush already are helping to shape the law in ways that ultimately could have as much, and in some ways even more, impact than the nine justices of the nation’s highest court.
Since Bush’s appellate judges have only gradually taken their seats on benches around the country, and the cases that they draw run the gamut, it’s still early to chart their impact on specific issues.
But already it is clear that these judges make up a solidly conservative crowd that tends to lean Bush’s way on the big issues of the day.
So far, Bush’s appointees to the appeals court are showing patterns very close to judges of his Republican predecessors in ideologically contested cases, according to law professor Cass Sunstein at the University of Chicago, where the Chicago Judges Project is tracking the federal judiciary.
“When the president talks about strict construction, everyone knows what he’s talking about.”
Overall, in his four-plus years in office, Bush has pushed a Republican-leaning federal judiciary farther to the right with more than 200 appointments to appellate and district courts.
By the end of his second term, Bush could eclipse Presidents Clinton and Reagan in the number of judges selected — and leave an ideological imprint on the courts for generations to come.
Since 1968, when Nixon was elected, Republican presidents have appointed 1,040 judges; Democrats have named 625.
While many of the Bush appointees are replacing jurists named by previous Republican presidents, toward the end of his term Bush could have more opportunities to replace some of the Clinton judges, which would have even greater impact.
The cumulative effect, said political scientist Donald Songer of the University of South Carolina, is that “the last three Republican presidents’ nominees control virtually the whole judiciary.”
People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group, titled its 2004 study of Bush’s judicial appointees “Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears.”
It concluded that Bush appointees already have moved to limit significantly congressional authority and protection of individual rights.
“For many, many of the nominees in the lower courts, the Bush administration has been decidedly pushing toward judges with a pretty firm right-wing ideology,” said Elliot Mincberg, the group’s legal director.
Wendy Long, counsel for the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network, said that when it comes to the courts, Bush “gets it” in a way that even his father and Reagan did not.
His nominees “understand the problems with the way the Constitution has been interpreted and will go about fixing that in their own decisions,” she said.
You may not want us to think or believe that federal judges are as political as all get-out, Justice Roberts, and some or many in this country might be naïve or gullible enough to believe you when you say “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” but it very much seems as if the United States Senate and the media in this country along with court watchers like myself do not believe you, nor frankly, should they.
And there I will leave off for the moment.
In my next installment of this open letter, I will come back and deal with your assertion that “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them,” to demonstrate the falsity of that statement, as well, and in the meantime, you have yourself a very nice day, and oh, yeah, Justice Roberts, be sure to take a minute of your time to thank a veteran for your freedom.