Have I Mentioned That You Should Shut The Hell Up?

From Holden:

Former Bush assministration Solicitor General Ted Olsen takes Tom DeLay and John Cornyn to the woodshed in the pages of the Wall Street Journal.

Every day, thousands and thousands of judges — jurists whose names we never hear, from our highest court to our most local tribunal — resolve controversies, render justice, and help keep the peace by providing a safe, reliable, efficient and honest dispute resolution process. The pay is modest, the work is frequently quite challenging, and the outcome often controversial. For every winner in these cases, there is a loser. Many disputes are close calls, and the judge’s decision is bound to be unpopular with someone. But in this country we accept the decisions of judges, even when we disagree on the merits, because the process itself is vastly more important than any individual decision. Our courts are essential to an orderly, lawful society. And a robust and productive economy depends upon a consistent, predictable, evenhanded, and respected rule of law. That requires respected judges. Americans understand that no system is perfect and no judge immune from error, but also that our society would crumble if we did not respect the judicial process and the judges who make it work.

We have recently witnessed tragic violence against judges, their families and court personnel in Chicago and Atlanta. These incidents serve as reminders of how vulnerable the judiciary is to those who may be aggrieved by judges’ decisions. Violence and intimidation aimed at judges is plainly intolerable; all of us can, and should, be unequivocally unified on the proposition that judges must be protected from aggrieved litigants and acts of terrorism. The wall between the rule of law and anarchy is fragile; if it is penetrated, freedom, property and liberty cannot long endure.


[A]bsent lawlessness or corruption in the judiciary, which is astonishingly rare in this country, impeaching judges who render decisions we do not like is not the answer. Nor is the wholesale removal of jurisdiction from federal courts over such matters as prayer, abortion, or flag-burning. While Congress certainly has the constitutional power, indeed responsibility, to restrict the jurisdiction of the federal courts to ensure that judges decide only matters that are properly within their constitutional role and expertise, restricting the jurisdiction of courts in response to unpopular decisions is an overreaction that ill-serves the long-term interests of the nation. As much as we deplore incidents of bad judging, we are not necessarily better off with — and may dislike even more — adjudications made by presidents or this year’s majority in Congress.

Calls to investigate judges who have made unpopular decisions are particularly misguided, and if actually pursued, would undermine the independence that is vital to the integrity of judicial systems. If a judge’s decisions are corrupt or tainted, there are lawful recourses (prosecution or impeachment); but congressional interrogations of life-tenured judges, presumably under oath, as to why a particular decision was rendered, would constitute interference with — and intimidation of — the judicial process. And there is no logical stopping point once this power is exercised.