Hatch to Obama: Pick someone fair who thinks like me.

Sen. Orrin Hatch met with President Obama yesterday about the coming nomination of a new Supreme Court justice. Here is Hatch’s entire statement from his official web site:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) issued the following statement today after meeting with President Obama about the current Supreme Court vacancy:

“I gave the President my perspective on what constitutes a qualified nominee to the Supreme Court. It shouldn’t be someone who substitutes their own personal views for the law of the land, and who refuses to follow the Constitution of the United States. A judicial activist would be a poor and unnecessarily divisive choice at any time. After the highly-contentious health care debate, I feel it is more important than ever that the President choose someone who will get overwhelming support from the American people and the United States Senate.”

This is an interesting statement from several perspectives. For example, he says “it shouldn’t be someone who substitutes their own personal views for the law of the land,” nor should it be someone “who refuses to follow the Constitution.”

That certainly sound reasonable, on its face. The hope for a candidate who all Americans will support is laudable.

Two problems:

1 — How anyone decides something is going to be the result of their life’s experience. There is no way around this. A 61-year-old white male of German extraction who was raised in Utah, Florida and New York and has spent 32 years as a journalist in a medium-sized northern Utah town is going to have a vastly different outlook on life than a 28-year-old black female legal consultant who was brought up in Los Angeles and went to Yale and now lives in Wisconson.

It is impossible to not have these different life experiences color how we look at things when trying to decide among them.

2 — The Constitution of the United States is not an “yes or no” document. It is short, and worded in general terms  (What does “pursuit of happiness” really mean?) because the writers, in all their own frailty, knew that life was full of different situations that could not be ruled on ahead of time. Their goal was to set out guidelines and hope that the people who followed would have the brains to follow those guidelines. They had to know that vague guidelines meant someone would have to interpret things, which is why they put nine people on the Supreme Court. Concensus is always better that one person’s decision, so the thinking went.

If the Constitution were a black/white, yes or no, document, we probably wouldn’t need judges in the first place. A true-false test is easy to grade. A monkey could do it.

Making these decisions requires people to apply past law, current culture, the Constitution as interpreted by past judges and others, the facts of the individual case, and them make a judgement as to which way to go. This all involves very human thinking processes that involve various types of logic, including the fuzzy kind, and sometimes even a bit of gut instinct.

That’s why they’re called “judges” not “computers.”

It is never cut and dried. That complexity, combined with different backgrounds and outlooks, leads to all those 4-5 decisions.

What Hatch is doing here is playing his usual “activist judge” game — From what I’ve observed, he defines an activist judge as one whose decisions he disagrees with, based on the supposition that Orrin Hatch’s view of what the Constitution says is the only correct view, so any other view is activism and some  judge trying to apply their own presonal views, not the law.

How do I know this? Well, it is my opinion, based on all my life’s experiences and education, but I’ve also never, ever, heard Sen. Hatch decry some decision that he agreed with as “activist.”

It’s always just decisions he thinks are wrong. Coincidence?

Anyone who thinks applying the Constitution is a simple process is the one playing games. Hatch’s opinions are neither right nor wrong. People whose opinions disagree with Hatch are neither right nor wrong. Opinons are just that: opinions.

When the justices of the Supreme Court hand down a decision it is the sum of nine opinions. Sometimes you or I will agree with that decision, sometimes we will disagree.

My hope is that Obama picks someone who can make good decisions, avoiding all the political and faux-Constitutional screaming going on at the moment. Fair is all we can ask for, and it is that most rare of commodities.

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9 Responses to Hatch to Obama: Pick someone fair who thinks like me.

  1. Doug Gibson says:

    President Obama’s criteria should be whether the selection is qualified. Liberal orv conservative does not matter. I would like to see federal appeals court Judge Diane Wood because she is a very intelligent, qualified liberal and it would be interesting to see her match wits with Justice Antonin Scalia.

  2. Bob Becker says:

    Doug:

    No, the Senate’s criteria whould be whether the selection is qualified. As G. Bush II kept reminding people, “elections have consequences.” He nominated justices thought to be conservative, and most appointments were approved by the necessary majority in the senate. I’d expect a Demcratic president, who rode to victory by a very large popular and electoral majority, to nominate liberal judges. And if they are qualified, the Senate should approve their nominations. But it’s the Senate that should look primarily at qualified/not qualified to determine senators’ votes. The president, whoever he is, can and should take judicial philosophy into consideration. Elections not only do have consequences. They should.

  3. Doug Gibson says:

    That’s a good point Bob, although I hope President Obama picks a qualified justice who shares his views.

  4. Owain says:

    “Making these decisions requires people to apply past law, current culture, the Constitution as interpreted by past judges and others, the facts of the individual case, and them make a judgement as to which way to go. This all involves very human thinking processes that involve various types of logic, including the fuzzy kind, and sometimes even a bit of gut instinct.”

    Past law. Check. Current culture. Not so fast!!

    If the language of the constitution fails to address the needs of current culture, guess what? The founders took that into account and provided a mechanism to address the situation. The legislature passes a law to cover the current situation. If it requires something more fundamental, use a constitutional amendment.

    One guy in black robes (or a group of guys, in the case of a circuit court or even the Supreme Court) isn’t a valid substitute for the electorate. If someone wants to change something as important as the interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, I want a chance to vote on it.

    That is how our system of government is supposed to work. I don’t want some judge going free spirit on us, and deciding for themselves that, “Well, neither the law nor the Constitution provides the solution I prefer in plain language, so I’ll just put my own ‘interpretation’ on things to get the results I want”.

    Good for Senator Hatch. Sounds like he’s doing his job well.

  5. Carl Kove says:

    Lets have a up or down vote on the eventual nonimee. Thats what Orrin Hatch always said whenever a republican selection was facing difficulty or a negative vote. Will Orrin try to delay the vote or will he remember his past words and push for a straight vote on the choice? I guess that Hatch will oppose any Obama selection to try to appease the far right branch of the local republican party. This is the same man who was chairman of the judical committee during the Clinton years and refused to have the committee meet or hold hearings on nominee selections. Orrin Hatch is one of the culprits in the bitter acrimony that we now have.

  6. Tom says:

    If any one thinks that Borin Orin Hatch is an embarrassment to thinking Utah folks now, just wait till you get a load of the idiocy he will be dishing up to the tin foil hat crowd that just ousted his buddy Bennett. It is going to get stranger and stranger in this strange land of right wingnut politico’s pandering to the mentally challenged but voting sheeple here in the land of Oz.

  7. laytonian says:

    Owain says ” If someone wants to change something as important as the interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, I want a chance to vote on it.
    That is how our system of government is supposed to work.”

    Does the above represent the true Glenn Beckian view of our Constitution, as correctly translated by W. Cleon Skousen?

    What else can it be?

  8. Owain says:

    Laytonian said, “Does the above represent the true Glenn Beckian view of our Constitution…”?

    Not my view, but the founding fathers. Otherwise, why include the amendment process in the Constitution?

    If you think it’s a good idea for judges to be able roll their own interpretation of the Constitution, what would be your opinion if a judge somewhere were to come down with a decision, in violation of the Constitution (State or Federal), that you disagreed with?

    Somehow, I think that (justifiably) you would be less than pleased. Is it only a problem when it’s your ox that’s being gored?

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