Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sotomayor, Mr. Spock, and A Government of Men

President Obama has chosen his nominee for the Supreme Court. As promised, his pick reflects his aim to invert a key American founding principle. He had previously laid out his judicial philosophy to the nation:

... [J]ustice 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.
President Obama, May 1, 2009

In introducing Judge Sonia Sotomayer, the president said:

While there are many qualities that I admire in judges across the spectrum of judicial philosophy, and that I seek in my own nominee, there are few that stand out that I just want to mention.

First and foremost is a rigorous intellect -- a mastery of the law, an ability to hone in on the key issues and provide clear answers to complex legal questions. Second is a recognition of the limits of the judicial role, an understanding that a judge's job is to interpret, not make, law; to approach decisions without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a commitment to impartial justice; a respect for precedent and a determination to faithfully apply the law to the facts at hand.

These two qualities are essential, I believe, for anyone who would sit on our nation's highest court. And yet, these qualities alone are insufficient. We need something more. For as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience." Experience being tested by obstacles and barriers, by hardship and misfortune; experience insisting, persisting, and ultimately overcoming those barriers. It is experience that can give a person a common touch and a sense of compassion; an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live. And that is why it is a necessary ingredient in the kind of justice we need on the Supreme Court.
President Obama, May 26, 2009

Thus does President Obama declare that a court of law will now become an emotional crap shoot. Said Rich Lowry in the New York Post:

It was a historic day when President Obama announced his nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

Impartiality has been supplanted by empathy. The old-fashioned virtue of objectivity -- redolent of dusty law books and the unromantic task of parsing the law and facts -- is giving way to an inherently politicized notion of judging based on feelings. Lady Justice is to slip her blindfold and let her decisions be influenced by her life experiences and personal predilections.

Tom Bowden, legal analyst for the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, has this to say:

In a 2001 speech titled “A Latina Judge’s Voice,” [Sonia Sotomayer] declared that “the aspiration to impartiality is just that–it’s an aspiration because it denies the fact” that “our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions.” “[G]ender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.” “There is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives,”

This is a blatant endorsement of subjective emotional decision-making, which has no place on the Court and will swiftly corrupt what’s left of its integrity. The Supreme Court has a solemn duty to interpret and apply the Constitution. That is an intellectual task requiring ruthless objectivity—which, contrary to Judge Sotomayor, is not an illusory “aspiration” but a requirement of justice. A conscientious judge strives to banish all emotional influences from the decision-making process. But here is Judge Sotomayor declaring herself helpless to resist—indeed, even welcoming—the influence of personal intuitions that cannot be grasped or shared by persons of another gender or ethnicity.
Voices for Reason, May 27, 2009

The revolt against reason and objectivity is not a mere political phenomenon. In the just-released movie “Star Trek”, an elderly Mr. Spock, the champion of logic, meets up with his younger self in some kind of time warp. This scene is, I believe, a crucial point – perhaps the crucial point – of the movie.

In the original series, Spock represents the manifestation of the fallacy of the reason-emotion dichotomy. (For an excellent, in depth discussion on this fallacy, see Mr. Jekyll and Dr. House: The Reason-Emotion Split as Manifested in House, M.D., by Gena Gorlin in The Objective Standard.) That aside, Spock represents the virtuous trait of never letting his emotions get in the way of rational analysis of the facts.

In the above mentioned scene, which occurs near the climax of the movie, the elder Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy) says; “Sometimes you have to put logic aside, and do what feels right.” So the Mr. Spock character is destroyed as a pitch is made to destroy reason in favor of emotionalism. Once you have made a conscious decision to act upon emotion, you admit a subversive influence into your rational faculty. How do you draw the line between when to think and when something just “feels right”?

How do you know where that line is as you seek justice in a court of law governed by judges who can act at any time – not on the objective facts and law – but on what happens to just “feel right”? How long can a civil society last when the guardians of our constitution act on “a necessary ingredient in the kind of justice we need” that varies from one judge’s whims to the next?

When justice is transformed from an objective absolute into a ball of putty, there is no justice at all. The counter-revolution against America’s founding ideals continues to gather momentum.

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