Saturday, May 02, 2009


The Last Thing an Appellate Judge Needs to Be

Here is what President Obama said about replacing Justice Souter, a nice guy but a reliable liberal "living constitution" Justice. One thing caught my eye:

...I will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity. I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book. It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives -- whether they can make a living and care for their families; whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation.

I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving as just decisions and outcomes.
(Emphasis added).

I have been a lawyer nearly 20 years now. I have appeared before trial judges thousands of times and before appellate judges perhaps a hundred times, and I have read countless thousands of opinions of appellate judges. The last thing an appellate judge needs is empathy.

It has often been said, and not without some truth, that we are a nation of laws not men. Apparently, our president wants to reverse that. Change indeed, but not for the better.


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