Newspapers generally advocate liberal jurists
By: Robert E. Meyer
It has been clear to me for a long time that the elections or appointments of judges is the most important issue at election time. In cases where appointments are made, such as with the federal judiciary, or at the state level between scheduled elections, those appointments depend upon who the people elect for office. One might be tempted to use the phrase “elections have consequences,” as a counter to the cliche that “there isn’t a dimes worth of difference…”
I continue to marvel at how newspaper editorial staffs ignore the most important issue when deciding to endorse a particular judicial candidate. Well, I shouldn’t marvel, as the omission is probably deliberate obfuscation to fool the public.
Few newspaper editorials ever have much to say about “judicial activism.” In fact, you get the impression that by completely ignoring that factor, editorial staffs can make you believe itâ€™s a completely phantom issue.
We constantly hear a candidate praised because he/she is “independent” and decides each case as an individual matter. Such terminology is a clear warning sign that the esteemed candidate is an activist, and the description is a euphemism or code phrase for the same. Why is it that they praise a so-called “progressive” judge for handling each case “individually,” yet attempt to disqualify a known conservative candidate, who even remotely suggests that certain established precedents may be legally flawed. Remember the Senate Judiciary Committee, the way they grilled judicial nominees to the Supreme Court about their commitment to the legal doctrine of “Stare Decisis.”
The bottom line is that the liberal judge is never tied to the “letter of the law,” nor even the spirit of the law, if it means leniency for the criminal, or creative interpretations that enable liberal social policies impossible to achieve via legislation. The conservative, on the other hand, is then bound by principles of flawed jurisprudence, on the basis that overthrowing these rulings would be a retreat on the progressive continuum of “positive cultural evolution.”
Another concept tossed about in newspaper staff editorials is “ideological balance.” If the staff believes that a court body is too conservative, they will point out that electing progressive judges will help neutralize the right-wing machine, moving decisions toward a balanced middle ground. You never hear the same concerns voiced when the shoe is on the other foot. If a court is predominantly liberal, we never hear calls for effecting an ideological balance by electing or appointing a few more conservatives to the bench. This is because most editorial staffs see liberal domination as the norm, and view liberal ideas as mainstream, or even middle-of-the-road thought.
Studies, particularly a survey done by the Los Angeles in 1985, show that journalists in the big media hubs and far more liberal on cultural issues than are average Americans. Undoubtedly, some of that bias bleeds through even to small towns newspaper editorializing.
My own local newspaper has endorsed very liberals candidates in two consecutive elections for Supreme Court Justice. In each case, their rationale was lame, and the issue of judicial activism was scarcely broached.
In my local elections, as is the case with many readers, at times we think a coin flip would be adequate as it pertains to the judicial candidates for local circuit courts. One fact that sways me in these “toss-up” elections is whether the incumbent was appointed by our very liberal governor. I take it for granted that he is only appointing judges who will help accomplish things he is not able to achieve legislatively.
Because of the temptation and the will to legislate from the bench, the placement of judges on the courts is the most important issue, from the local election, right up to the person we send to the White House.