Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Questions for a judge

Confirmation hearings for Judge John Roberts have begun, and the NY Times has been running a series on 5 questions that various judicial observers and commenters would like to ask him. For the most part, they are fair and interesting questions. Ron Klain, however, has some ideology-fueled commentary disguised as questions - it's pretty clear he's not so much interested in answers as making accusations. Here's a couple of examples:

In a memo you wrote in 1981, you criticized affirmative action "preferences" based on race, calling them "objectionable." If preferences given to those born into families that have suffered past discrimination are objectionable, what is your view of preferences given to those born into the families of privilege - namely, the preferences that many universities give to the families of their alumni?

Well Ron, there’s actually a pretty big difference there – one is a government-sponsored program, while the other is (primarily, as far as I know) a system found at private universities. I personally don’t like the practice, but if they want to provide legacy admissions, that’s up to them.

Over the past 50 years, 20 different men and women have been appointed to the Supreme Court. Recognizing that political labels are of limited value, and generalizations are generalizations, I wonder if you can identify one of these 20 jurists - just one - who you think has a view of constitutional rights that is "to the right" of your view, as that label is commonly used by legal commentators?

This is bizarre: first admit that labels are of limited value, then, with one of only five questions you’re asking the potential Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, ask him to label himself. Seems a little off. And incidentally, the way “to the right” is used by many of the commentators that he’s talking about it could mean anyone who doesn’t think the government has complete power over every aspect of our lives.

John Tierney has a humorous op-ed today on the matter.


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