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November 14, 2003

In Praise of Schumerism

The Wall Street Journal is attributing the current Democratic filibusters as derived from a dangerous doctrine: Schumerism.

And what is Schumerism?

Mr. Schumer insists that senators must make a judge's "ideology" their principal concern. By this he means the judge's private political opinions, as well as the political results his decisions have led to in past cases and could lead to in the future. Judges whose views on affirmative action and abortion are outside the "mainstream" should be disqualified from sitting on the federal bench, regardless of competence.
By that definition, I am a die-hard believer in Schumerism. But then "Schumerism" is how Presidents pick their judges-- not a lot of pro-choice, pro-labor liberals among Bush's nominees -- so why shouldn't the Senate judge by the same standards.

As I've noted on this point in the past, too many past battles on all sides focused on specious "character" attacks as a smokescreen for the real ideological differences. Opposing judges because you disagree with them-- the most American reason for dissent in our democracy -- will actually raise civility, since it means you can oppose a judge without implying they are some degenerate.

Miguel Estrada or Bill Pryor or any of the other rightwing judges coming down the pike may be dutiful children and loving parents, bright and intelligent, and so on. It is actually a great improvement to public debate that we can grant all that to Janice Brown, then declare our opposition to her appointment based on her views on the Lochner decision.

There is no reason in a democracy why either superior virtue or intelligence entitles you to office. Judges have too much power in my view to not be judged based on their views before given lifetime appointment. As things stand, the appointment process is the one check on judicial power for the lifetime of a judge. It should be a tough check for that very reason.

So three cheers for Schumerism!

Posted by Nathan at November 14, 2003 01:08 PM