Saturday, July 31, 2010

Judicial Activism

I don't get why Wednesday’s federal court ruling is such big news. I mean, it’s certainly going to have a major impact on a lot of people, but it’s not even remotely surprising, and neither are the reactions. Must we go through this charade every time?[1]

The process goes like this:
  1. A Republican legislature passes a constitutionally-dubious law, which is praised by conservatives as a bold re-affirmation of American values.
  2. The law is challenged. The lawsuit is immediately deemed frivolous and politically-motivated, and the challengers are decried as overly-litigious leftists who will stop at nothing to undermine everything this country stands for.
  3. The law is overturned on grounds that, while often debatable, are hardly ever patently flawed or ideologically-driven.
  4. Conservatives are shocked—Shocked!—and appalled—Appalled!—at once again being foiled by an “activist” judge employing flawed and/or ideologically-driven reasoning.
More often than not, conservatives jump straight from Step 2 to Step 4. They have no interest in dwelling on Step 3, because what if the ruling makes sense? Then there could be no Step 4, and we all know that’s the best part. And the reaction to the Arizona decision has been a truly inspired effort—a frenzy of mischaracterizations and misinformation. Here’s Rush Limbaugh, as soon as the news came out:
The PDF of this ruling is 36 pages and there's no way that I'm going to be able to go through all 36 pages prior to the program ending, but I know what went on here.
I don't know how you look at this with any sort of common sense and come to the ruling this woman came to. But, she didn't. She's a leftist and she made an activist decision, not a judicial decision.
So, based on one court order—the bulk of which Rush hadn't had the chance to read—Susan Bolton is a leftist, activist judge with a severe common sense deficiency.[2]

Of course, it doesn’t matter if he reads it—it wouldn’t change the rhetoric. The fact is, it’s a rational, well-supported ruling. It doesn’t say Arizona can’t do anything about immigration, it says they’ll have to do something that doesn’t flood the federal government with requests for verification of immigration status. It doesn’t say the police can’t attempt to verify immigration status when there is reasonable suspicion of unlawful presence, it simply says they can’t be required to.

I could go on, but I'll stop there. Let’s get over this judicial activism nonsense and start focusing on the real villains.

1. No, of course not—but let's go through it anyway.
2. A quick search of his site found no references to Judge Bolton before Wednesday, so I think it’s safe to assume Limbaugh hasn’t been closely following her career and crafting well-founded opinions about her ideology.

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