Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Questions on Roberts's "Personal Views"

From Wendy Long on Bench Memos:
"In short, some Senate Judiciary Committee members now say they will demand answers from Judge Roberts on two kinds of abortion questions: personal views and legal analysis.

"Personal view" questions: Judge Roberts's personal views on abortion are utterly irrelevant to how he would rule on legal questions before the United States Supreme Court. Other nominees have declined to give their personal views, and Judge Roberts should too, lest anyone think such views would influence his future rulings. One thing we know about him is that he believes in applying the law impartially and fairly. Part of what it means to be a judicial conservative - as opposed to a liberal - is that judicial conservatives do not impose their own policy preferences from the bench.
I agree that as a judicial conservative, Roberts's personal views on abortion (or any other subject) are irrelevant to how he'd rule when it came before the court for the reasons Long explaines. The problem, however, is that to the Living Constitutionalist (the view embraced by largely by liberals) personal views are of utmost relevance to Constitutional interpretation. The Living Constitutionalist is, in effect, a legislator driven to achieve what he/she feels is the best policy result from a particular interpretation of the Constitution. Because the courts have usurped legislative power at the expense of judicial restraint, the question of a nominee's personal views are critical to determining how the nominee would rule on a given issue. This is also known as judicial activism. In other words, the personal is the legal and the legal is the personal. This outlook explains why anyone would care whether Roberts has had sufficient contact with minorities in his life.

Secondly, the liberals on the Judiciary Committee (which includes Arlen Specter), view conservative jurists as judicial activists. They take this view for two reasons. One is that they are attempting to define judicial activism down. Conservatives have been very successful at painting the liberals with this label, which has stuck for good reason, and liberals have responded as they usually do - more or less - with a "I know you are, but what am I"/projection approach.

By labeling conservative jurists as activists, the left is attempting to enshrine their own policy preferences, on abortion, etc, into the "mainstream." This reason explains all the "Roberts is bad for privacy, the environment, affirmative action" yelping that we hear from the lefty activist groups everyday. All of those things for which Roberts is supposedly bad are, of course, policy preferences. The left worries that Roberts won't enshrine their agenda into the law and they claim that failure to do so is activist.

The other reason is that they are being disingenous. The left is, in essence, argueing that applying the law as it is written, and not straying from the text of the Constitution is an example of judicial activism. The left doesn't even try to argue that a lot of the precedents they really like are not grounded in the text of the Constitution. This argument is akin the argument that a politician is pulling a dirty trick by keeping his campaign promises and telling the truth. It just isn't a good faith argument and it won't fly.