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Politicizing the Judiciary

November 25, 2013 in Economics

By Richard W. Rahn

Richard W. Rahn

If you have ever been before a judge for any reason, did you think about whether the judge was appointed by a Democrat or a Republican? Probably not. People expect judges, regardless of political leanings, to be fair and competent — and for the most part, this expectation has been fulfilled in America, unlike many other places in the world. The action by the Senate Democrats last week, though, to kill the long-standing agreement that required a 60 percent supermajority vote for the confirmation of a federal court judge (with the exception of the Supreme Court) and change to a simple majority vote causes many to fear the increased politicization of the federal judiciary.

The judicial rulings in traffic cases, family disputes, property theft or damage, personal injury and most business disputes are rarely affected by the political leanings of the judge. Where a judge’s political or philosophical views do affect rulings are most often in cases involving basic civil liberties and economic freedoms. Yet most studies show that judges, whether they lean to the right or to the left, side with the government in the vast majority of cases. The cases that most often make news are those where the courts strike down the government position. Then there is the occasional, truly awful decision where the courts sow the seeds of future conflict. At the Supreme Court level, two cases come to mind. The first was the Dred Scott decision upholding the rights of slaveowners, which may have been the key that sparked the Civil War by delaying the ongoing natural death of slavery as an institution. The second was Roe v. Wade, which took away the state power to decide the extent of legality or nonlegality of abortions (which was being handled state by state at the time) — and created a federal right beyond the scope of the Constitution, resulting in decades of unnecessary additional conflict between advocates and opponents of abortion.

By packing the D.C. court of appeals, the president could degrade its quality.”

The immediate cause of the Senate action in changing its rules appears to be the desire of the Obama administration to appoint three new federal judges to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. This court is often viewed as the most important appellate court, in part because many of the cases involving alleged federal government overreach go to that court. Critics of the administration accuse President …read more

Source: OP-EDS