Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Just An Umpire

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: when you elect a president, you’re also looking at electing the next forty years of judicial rulings from the Supreme Court. Jeffrey Toobin at The New Yorker looks at the legacy of the Court under Chief Justice John Roberts.

“Judges are like umpires,” Roberts said at the time [of his confirmation]. “Umpires don’t make the rules. They apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire.” His jurisprudence as Chief Justice, Roberts said, would be characterized by “modesty and humility.” After four years on the Court, however, Roberts’s record is not that of a humble moderate but, rather, that of a doctrinaire conservative. The kind of humility that Roberts favors reflects a view that the Court should almost always defer to the existing power relationships in society. In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff. Even more than Scalia, who has embodied judicial conservatism during a generation of service on the Supreme Court, Roberts has served the interests, and reflected the values, of the contemporary Republican Party.

Yeah, just an umpire.