Editorial: Picking our judges for all of the wrong reasons

Published 9:41 am Thursday, February 3, 2022

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Maybe I’m a victim of “critical judge theory” taught to me by well-meaning educators over the years. Maybe I’ve just been so politically stuck in the middle that an extreme view from either side makes me shiver.
Either way, I have been thinking about how we pick justices for the highest court in the land, the United States Supreme Court. That thinking started when a friend posted on social media that they hope President Biden’s nominee is treated as badly as was Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s appointee.
You remember Brett Kavanaugh, right? He’s the one who whined on TV every time he was subjected to question after question from Democrats. And he admitted that he likes to drink beer.
So what?
But you can bet that Biden’s nominee will be treated like a second-class citizen, as well. Believe me, she will. As long as there are Republicans and Democrats who love power and the Washington way of doing things, it doesn’t matter who is nominated from which party. The other party will most certainly treat them badly during the confirmation hearings.
Throughout my education, I was taught that judges – whether on the U.S. Supreme Court or inside the Davie County Courthouse – do not listen to a case with a forgone conclusion. They listen to the facts and arguments presented before them, and make their decisions based on those facts and arguments and on their years of studying the law.
It seems pretty simple.
For quite a few years now, too many people vote for a Presidential candidate based on whether their Supreme Court nominee will be liberal or conservative. In my critical judge theory way of thinking, that shouldn’t matter.
We should appoint or elect the best legal minds we can find for these positions. It shouldn’t matter their race, sex or political history. It should be based solely on their ability to look at a set of facts and circumstances and make a legal decision accordingly.
It bothered me when President Biden announced that he would appoint a Black woman as the next justice. I have nothing against Black women. I am not against a Black woman serving on the court. What I don’t like is the President looking away from potentially more qualified candidates based on their race or sex. On its face, it goes against the notion that the best, most qualified legal mind become the next justice.
And like Trump before him, Biden is going against what should be done by announcing the political ideology he wants from his nominee.
It begs the question: Do Supreme Court justices vote for the party of the president that appointed them?
The answer? Yes, they do. Research revealed that occasionally, a Justice may sway from the party, but almost always, if politics or a President is involved in the case before them, the Justices go with the party of the President who appointed them. That same research shows that Justices appointed by Democratic presidents are slightly more likely to vote against the party that appointed them.
Only one thing is for sure. When those confirmation hearings begin, we will be embarrassed by our elected officials. It happened with Brett Kavanaugh and it will happen again.
– Mike Barnhardt