What's All This Then?

commentary on the passing parade

Agree? Disagree? Tell me

My Other Blog

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I didn’t watch all of the John Roberts hearings. In fact, it would be truthful to say that I only watched a fraction of them, but I did watch highlights that were included in news programs, so I would imagine that I heard most of the key questions that bothered Judicial Committee members from both sides of the aisle.

One question that was asked was about citing laws of other nations when considering a case that comes before the court. A good question. A legitimate question, but one unfortunately posed by Tom Coburn (R- Okla). That’s Coburn as in
"Lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they'll only let one girl go to the bathroom."
"I believe all life has value, from conception to natural death. And I believe the intentional taking of human life, except to save lives, should be a capital offense, as it is in most states in America today"
"My hope is that one day America will return to our historic standards which were to respect the life of the unborn."
And Coburn was true to form when he asked the question about citing foreign law in rulings, saying that any judge who does so should be impeached and thrown off the bench. In that sense, it was more of a silly statement than a question - which is typical of how these hearings often go.

Roberts though, recognized the question buried in the rhetoric and gave a sensible answer. But now - in hindsight - we can see that there was a missed opportunity to have asked a different kind of question at that point, had someone with a different kind of imagination than Coburn’s been the questioner. Never mind about foreign law!! How about foreign opinion?? How about foreign media?? Could the Supreme Court of the United States be influenced by something that appears on foreign television? Or in a foreign newspaper? Should the Supreme Court even pay attention to something that appears in a foreign newspaper??

Those may seem like silly questions that have no place in a serious hearing about the views and qualifications of a potential Supreme Court Justice - and they probably are. But in this age of globalization, where someone in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park sneezes and someone on the ninety fifth floor of the Sears Tower says "gesundheit, " maybe it’s something that shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed out of hand.

It certainly wasn’t when someone said "cheeze" to model Kate Moss and Britain’s premier tabloid - The Daily Mirror - said "thank you." There it was - a virtual scandal sheet thousands of miles from where you and I live - and likely of zero interest to anyone outside of the two plus millions of Brits who gobble up its oftentimes prurient garbage daily - and major international companies reacted to a story about Ms Moss as though the Daily Mirror was some sort of international arbiter of proper behavior and good taste.

All of this of course may be because the Daily Mirror front page of November 5, 2004 , which was considered to be an intrusive insult and held up to ridicule by many pundits then - looked more like an oracle to H&M, Gloria Vanderbilt, Dior and others less than a year later - on September 15, 2005

Judge Roberts and other members of the court would of course say that it would be ludicrous to believe that some item reported in the foreign press could in any way influence their thinking on deliberations over any kind of case - but you have to wonder if that can be taken as a given. These judges after all are accepted as being of one philosophical mind or another - either conservative or liberal - so we know that their views and their approach to the cases that come before them aren’t purely based on the written law. If that were so, we wouldn’t need nine justices. One computer with enough memory and appropriate software would be sufficient.

If you still think it’s hogwash to believe that a Supreme Court judge can be influenced in his thinking by anything that happens or has happened in a foreign country - how about a scenario like this?

The last election was a repeat of 2,000 - locked in a battle over one state. Let’s make it Ohio this time. The conflict ends up in the Supreme Court. Arguments are being presented by both sides. Suddenly, the Daily Mirror - a low life English tabloid that is actually (gulp) read by some people I know, comes out with a screaming headline about a secret meeting at Number 10 Downing Street that revealed President Bush as a liar - a man who deliberately lied about the reasons he involved us in the quagmire that Iraq has become. And let’s suppose that when asked, Tony Blair declines to take issue with the headlines. And let’s suppose that the conditions that now exist in Iraq are the ones that exist as the Supreme Court listens to the arguments. And let’s suppose that just like 2,000, the challenger is ahead in the popular vote. And let’s also suppose that 99% of the lawyers in the United States agree that both sides have equal merit and that the case could be decided either way and that those 99% of American legal eagles couldn’t or wouldn’t take issue with the decision.

As Judge Roberts himself might have said in his days before the bench -I rest my case.