Thoughts of an American Centrist

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

DeLay Attacks Moderate Supreme Court Justice Kennedy and..... the Internet?

We knew that Tom DeLay and his conservative cohorts are in an all out campaign to subjugate the judiciary. We just expected that he'd go after liberal federal court judges, not one of the moderate members of the Supreme Court!

DeLay's criticism focused on two points:
  1. Justice Kennedy acknowledged the role of international law in rendering a court decision regarding Juvenile Death sentences.
  2. Justice Kennedy performed research on the internet.
Both of these practices were dubbed "incredibly outrageous" by DeLay.

While I agree that international law should not be given sanctity over U.S. law in our court system, and I disagree with Justice Kennedy's evaluation that "It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion," I do not believe his argument to be "incredibly outrageous," and particularly shows no grounds for impeachment. This is especially true since Kennedy relies on more than just international opinion, following the quote up with practical reasoning: "resting in large part on the understanding that the instability and emotional imbalance of young people may often be a factor in the crime."

Again, I'm not coming out in favor of this opinion, but I certainly don't believe that DeLay has a leg to stand on if this is the main thrust of his argument for impeaching a Supreme Court Justice.

The second point is "incredibly outrageous" on the Congressman's part. Is DeLay really suggesting that all data discovered online is, by very nature, invalid? I wonder if DeLay's own staff looked up quotes, written opinions, and biographical information on Kennedy while preparing their assault? As someone who has been involved in scientific research, engineering, and blogging, I know that the internet is a reliable and invaluable source of data if one conducts one's research through the proper channels. There isn't a life-sciences based PhD student alive that hasn't used Pub Med for research. DeLay is simply trying to leverage the old stereotype that anything that comes off the internet is completely unreliable. (Of course, the Congressman may have a point if Justice Kennedy was using this website for research, but somehow I doubt that...)

The fact of the matter is that the current Court's composition is just fine by my Amercan Centrist standards. We have a fine mix of conservatives (Rehnquist, Thomas, Scalia), liberals (Ginsberg, Stevens, Breyer, Souter), and moderates (Kennedy, O'Connor). Our Supreme Court works best when we have a conservative and a liberal side battling it out over the most contentious issues of the day, with the moderates to help tip the balance. If the court were made up of either Scalia clones or Stevens clones, it would be a disaster for America.

The forces of the extreme right want to see all of the justices made after the conservative mold, with no exceptions for moderates like Kennedy. Just take a look at the all out attack on Justice Kennedy by some of the more vocal and extreme members of the conservative movement.

The American Centrist cannot stand for impeaching justices simply because you don't like a decision they make. Impeachment is valid only when a party has committed "High Crimes and Misdemeanors."

We have an uncanny parallel situation of 200 years ago, when the only other impeachment against a Supreme Court Justice was brought (found on "InfoPlease")

"Associate Justice Samuel Chase , a strong Federalist, was impeached but acquitted of judicial bias against anti-Federalists. The acquittal on March 1, 1805, established that political differences were not grounds for impeachment."

And there you have it. This impeachment nonsense should be case closed. Unless, that is, that the anti-Judiciary forces want to throw out jurisprudence once and for all....

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