Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama issued an opening statement this morning in the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Sonia Sotomayor that is so misleading it requires serious analysis. Here are a few of the highlights with explanatory remarks.
“This hearing is important because I believe our legal system is at a dangerous crossroads,” Sessions said, a view he must share alone, since I don’t know anyone else who believes that.
“Down one path is the traditional American legal system, so admired around the world, where judges impartially apply the law to the facts without regard to their own personal views. Indeed, our legal system is based on a firm belief in an ordered universe and objective truth. The trial is the process by which the impartial and wise judge guides us to the truth.
“Down the other path lies a ‘Brave New World’ where words have no true meaning and judges are free to decide what facts they choose to see. In this world, a judge is free to push his or her own political and social agenda. I reject this view.”
On the face of it, this is a ridiculous analysis of politics and the law in America’s system of three branches of government. Sessions seems to define objectivity the same way Fox News defines it, as Fair and Balanced — as long as it is conservative and Republicans agree with it. He knows nothing of “objective truth,” only he thinks his views should be the views of mainstream America. In the Bush era, they sort of had that going on, thanks to Karl Rove’s spin. But it’s not true anymore…
The reason we have nine justices on the Supreme Court and advice and consent hearings to confirm or deny them a lifetime appointment on the court is because a person’s background and political views matter. Sessions seems to want the nation’s highest court to defer to Congress and state legislatures for all their power, which is a standard that would allow mob rule in America. If that standard was followed, this nation would still probably have slavery, or at least broad discrimination against persons of color, for example. We would probably not have free speech rights anymore, or Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure — if left to elected politicians in the executive and legislative branches.
Majority rule is not the end all be all of American democracy. The high court, removed as far as possible from politics, has at times in our history had to rule against the majority for justice to be served.
“I will not vote for — no senator should vote for — an individual nominated by any President who believes it is acceptable for a judge to allow their own personal background, gender, prejudices, or sympathies to sway their decision in favor of, or against, parties before the court. In my view, such a philosophy is disqualifying,” Sessions said. “Such an approach to judging means that the umpire calling the game is not neutral, but instead feels empowered to favor one team over the other.
“Call it empathy, call it prejudice, or call it sympathy, but whatever it is, it is not law. In truth it is more akin to politics. And politics has no place in the courtroom. That is, of course, the logical flaw in the ’empathy standard.’ Empathy for one party is always prejudice against another.”
Sessions should know all about prejudice, since his entire argument is based on his prejudices. Look at the issues he chose to highlight.
“Judge Sotomayor, we will inquire into how your philosophy, which allows subjectivity into the courtroom, affects your rulings on issues like:
Abortion, where an organization in which you were an active leader argued that the Constitution requires that taxpayer money be used for abortions;
Gun control, where you recently ruled that it is “settled law” that the Second Amendment does not prevent a city or state from barring gun ownership;
Private property, where you have already ruled that the government could take property from one pharmacy developer and give it to another; and
Capital punishment, where you personally signed a statement opposing the reinstatement of the death penalty because of the ‘inhuman[e] psychological burden’ it places on the offender and his or her family.
Sessions is among the radical right in this country who are desperate for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the ruling that upholds a woman’s right to choose an abortion to end an unwanted pregnancy. So he objects to Sotomayor’s views on abortion, not her clear-headed rulings in keeping with established court precedent on that issue.
Sessions is against gun control, so he is looking for a way to vote against any judge who disagrees with his political views on that issue.
Sessions is for capital punishment, so he does not want any judges on the Supreme Court who disagree with him on that issue.
Sessions is also a radical-right nut on private property rights, who would protect the rich and powerful against any government intrusion, especially on environmental issues. His mention of the pharmacy case is a diversion. He doesn’t believe the federal government has the right to regulate private property even when it is for the good of the public welfare to do so.
Sessions, we suspect, never paid attention to the prime directives of the show Star Trek: The interests of the many outway the interests of the one.
© 2009 – 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.