Tag Archives: judicial activism

Ethics Quote Of The Day: Five Ninth Circuit Judges

“We are all acutely aware of the enormous controversy and chaos that attended the issuance of the Executive Order. People contested the extent of the national security interests at stake, and they debated the value that the Executive Order added to our security against the real suffering of potential emigres. As tempting as it is to use the judicial power to balance those competing interests as we see fit, we cannot let our personal inclinations get ahead of important, overarching principles about who gets to make decisions in our democracy.

For better or worse, every four years we hold a contested presidential election. We have all found ourselves disappointed with the election results in one election cycle or another. But it is the best of American traditions that we also understand and respect the consequences of our elections. Even when we disagree with the judgment of the political branches — and perhaps especially when we disagree — we have to trust that the wisdom of the nation as a whole will prevail in the end.”

—-Five judges of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals  (Judges Jay Bybee,  joined by Judges Alex Kozinski, Consuelo María Callahan, Carlos Bea, and Sandra Segal Ikuta, attacked what Bybee called the “fundamental errors” in the February decision of a three-judge panel upholding the temporary restraining order that blocked President Donald Trump’s first executive order temporarily halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The opinion denounced the panel’s ruling as a “clear misstatement of law,” and stated that the five, constituting a larger number of judges than the three judge panel whose contrary holding was described as a “unanimous” 9th Circuit decision, had an”obligation to correct” it for the record.

“We are judges, not Platonic Guardians. It is our duty to say what the law is, and the meta-source of our law, the U.S. Constitution, commits the power to make foreign policy, including the decisions to permit or forbid entry into the United States, to the President and Congress,” the five judges stated.

Currently, the President’s revised order is held up by an even more widely criticized temporary restraining order issued by  U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson. As well as following many of the same lines of activist judicial reasoning the five judges criticized in their dissent, Judge Watson’s opinion heavily relies  on the campaign rhetoric of President Trump and statements by  chief aide Stephen Miller in TV interviews. This means, as several critical legal experts including Alan Dershowitz  have pointed out, that the exact same order, if issued by Barack Obama, would not have been blocked, and would have been found Constitutional.

Now that’s a double standard!

In criticizing their colleagues, the five judges said that the panel “brushed aside” the clearly controlling case law of Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753 (1972) and ignored entirely the rulings in Kerry v. Din, 135 S. Ct. 2128 (2015) and Fiallo v. Bell, 430 U.S. 787 (1977).  The Supreme Court in Mandel recognized that First Amendment rights were implicated by an executive action but decided…

“when the executive has exercised its authority to exclude aliens on the basis of a facially legitimate and bona fide reason, the courts will neither look behind the exercise of that discretion, nor test it by balancing its justification against the First Amendment 11 interests of those who seek personal communication with the applicant.”

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Judges At Work

Supreme Court protests

In the threads here stemming from Judge Kopf’s impolite and unprofessional verbiage directed at the Supreme Court, some members of the Nebraska federal jurist’s fan club have sought to justify his incivility by asserting that the judicial system itself is “broken,” and that, more specifically, judges ought to just concern themselves with judicial errors of their lower court colleagues and eschew political controversies, such as, I must presume based on the context of the judge’s compliant, when the other branches of the government break laws and violate constitutional principles.

To say that I’m cynical about this argument understates the case.What it means, I believe, is that members of one partisan orientation believe that the system is broken as long as judges who do not share their progressive biases are in a position to rule on various controversies where judicial intervention is necessary and appropriate, but will no longer be considered “broken” once progressive-minded jurists are in a position to do the intervening, whereupon the critics like Judge Kopf will drop their objections.

The fact that the system is not “broken” and that judges are doing their jobs when called upon to protect the public from abuse of power was illustrated by two events this week: Continue reading

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Slate’s Emily Bazelon Shows How Bias Makes Journalists Not Just Inaccurate and Unfair, But Stupid Too

Besides, a judge who overturns Bloomberg's soft drink ban MUST be a conservative, because we all know conservatives are fat and eat meat and stuff and don't want people to be healthy so they don't have to pay their fair share for Obamacare, right?

Besides, a judge who overturns Bloomberg’s soft drink ban MUST be a conservative, because we all know conservatives are fat and eat meat and stuff and don’t want people to be healthy so they don’t have to pay their fair share for Obamacare, right?

The judge who struck down New York Mayor Bloomberg’s giant soft drink ban, as controversial an example of aggressive government paternalism over personal choice as one can find, has a pretty clear record of supporting traditional liberal positions, like same-sex marriage, and appears to be a Democrat. He was elected in ultra-liberal Manhattan, and supported by Charlie Rangel’s organization.

Nonetheless, writing about the decision in Slate, legal analyst Emily Bazelon wrote this…

“Judge Tingling walked on by all of that in striking down the Department of Health order. And of course he’s not the first conservative judge to find that activism from the bench is awfully appealing when it allows you to sweep away laws you don’t like.”

How does she know Tingling is a conservative judge? Why, because he ruled against a prohibition that she, a liberal, happens to like. Just consider what she is doing in this statement: Continue reading

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Perry v. Schwarzenegger: Choosing Ethics Over Morality

Predictably, Judge Walker’s decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger striking down California’s voter approved Proposition 8 has infuriated foes of gay marriage, who have condemned his opinion as judicial activism, a rejection of democratic process, and an agenda-driven farce. Walker himself is being attacked for having a conflict of interest, because he is widely believed to be gay himself. (The belief that a gay judge cannot rule objectively on the issue of gay marriage while a straight judge can is itself an expression of bias.) This is not surprising. What is surprising, at least to me, is that the only substantial argument critics of the opinion can articulate is based on the exact proposition Walker rejected in his opinion: that laws should be able to prohibit conduct based on morality and tradition alone, without quantifiable and verifiable reasons relating to the best interests of society. By insisting that a California law that would withhold a fundamental right—marriage—from a class of Americans must justify itself with reason rather than tradition, Judge Walker ruled that it is ethics, not morality, that should govern American law and justice. Continue reading

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Ethics Quote of the Month: Judge Vaughn Walker

His opinion declaring the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages in California unconstitutional is here.

The opinion really begins on page 110. Opponents of the opinion are calling it “judicial activism,” “overturning the will of the people,” and “ruling by fiat.” Don’t buy it. The judge logically, fairly and appropriately explains why withholding the basic right of marriage from same-sex couples is a violation of essential values and American principles of ethics and law. Forget about the pundits and the spin: read what Judge Walker wrote.

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