16 November 2005

Where I Stand: The Supreme Court

I know this batch of Justices on the Supreme Court will be hearing a lot of landmark cases. Let me rephrase that: I know this batch of justices on the Supreme Court will be hearing a lot of landmark cases that I am now old enough to care about and understand. And of course there's the possibility Roe V. Wade will come up before the conservative justices retire (or die). Yet despite knowing a lot about what's on the line, I am disappointed in the way the last three nominations have been handled. My angst is directed neither at President Bush, nor retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (although I could justify both). Instead I am miffed because of the media and special interest groups. If you have a moment, I'll tell you why.

Supreme Court Justices do not hold politicized posts. That is to say they are not elected and they are not supposed to represent any agenda. The job of a justice is most often to interpret the law.

So it annoys me to learn that special interest groups are asking for money, be it to support or oppose a nomination. Progress For America will not be voting to confirm Sam Alito. NARAL Pro Choice America will also not be asked for an opinion. Although both get credit for giving you the option of writing to senators while asking you to fund the fight. As it stands, only senators vote on Supreme Court Nominees. If you want to be heard, send yours a message.

It irks me that media outlets are so quick to contemplate how a nominee might push the court to the right or to the left. It's all speculation. I believe justices make decisions based on the arguments presented before them. I also believe the best lawyer wins. I am not so naive to ignore the role personal experiences may play. But no one is perfectly objective. The system requires some faith in order for it to work.

I also don't agree with using the past as fodder for future debate. For example, in 1985 when applying to be an Assistant Attorney General under President Ronald Reagan, Judge Samuel Alito called himself a conservative against affirmative action and abortion. Democrats and liberals (not to be considered the same) said "Aha! He's sure to vote to overturn Roe."

Maybe Democrats and liberals should ask themselves if they've ever boasted on a job application. Or if they've ever changed their stance on anything. In his defense, Alito has basically said he was trying to get a job by telling the employer what the employer wanted to hear.

Anecdote: I went to Catholic school, you know. When I was in 6th grade, we were asked to write essays explaining why abortion was wrong. I'm sure they gave us an abortion explainer, but I don't remember what it was. Anyway, I went home and wrote what I thought to be a very good essay on why no one should be allowed to get an abortion. I was proud of myself. So proud that I showed my mother. She did not seemed pleased. She showed my father and I got a second abortion explainer about choices and circumstances. I then rewrote the essay.

I don't know what happened to the original essay, but how would I feel if I suddenly decided to get a job at an abortion clinic and they brought that up?

My point is that people change as they learn. Yes Samuel Alito is a conservative. Yes he has his opinions as an educated citizen. But history has shown us he has done his job well in the past. There's no reason for him to start screwing up now.

So to the media: I care that this is happening. I do not care about what you think "might happen if."

And you special interest groups: If you want a donation to further your cause, that's fine. But do not pretend that will go votes for or against any nominee. You're on my nerves.