By: Sam Curtis
Last month history was made again when this country’s first African American President nominated a Latino woman to serve on the High Court.
Federal Appellant Judge Sonia Sotomayor was named by President Barack Obama to replace retiring Justice Souter.
No sooner than she gave a touching acceptance speech where she gave thanks to her hard working mother, the mudslingers were in full force.
Activist judge they called her in referring to the above Youtube clip.
We heard that term during the Bush administration, and the recent Presidential campaign.
What is the definition of an activist judge? It is said that an activist judge is one who legislate from the bench. As quiet as its kept, Judges have a duty to legislate or make law from the bench.
In order to understand this fully, we must look at the function of not only the judiciary branch, but all branches of government.
As you may or may not know, the United States Constitution mandates as a matter of checks and balances that our federal government be divided in three branches: the Legislative, Executive and the Judiciary branches.
The legislative branch creates federal law in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The executive branch, i.e. the president, cabinet members, and staff, enact and enforce the laws that Congress passes.
The function of the judicial branch is to interpret the law when it is unclear or in question. In instances where the laws or rulings of lower courts are challenged, the Supreme Court justices must examine the law and determine if the intention of the law has been upheld. Often, justices must determine whether federal or state laws are constitutional, or if Congress has passed a law without any constitutional authority to do so. Unless they are unanimous, Supreme Court rulings have two parts, the majority opinion and the dissenting opinion, wherein the justices explain their reasoning and their interpretation of the law.
Judicial rulings become the basis for future legal arguments. This is known in legal parlance as a legal precedent, or “case law.” In essence, law is created by the legislature in the form of a statue and by the judiciary in the form of case law.
Sometimes, the legislature codifies the case law or adopt it in the form of a statute.
Far too often, the legislative branch for political reasons fail to legislate on behalf of their constituents who fall into the minority.
This is not the case with the judiciary branch. The framers of the Constitution recognized the importance of the judiciary branch and differentiated it from the other two branches in several significant ways. For instance, Supreme Court justices are appointed for life. The reasoning behind lifetime tenure is that sometimes justices must make decisions that are unpopular or counter to the will of the majority. Because they are not elected, they are free to uphold the law in spite of potential political fallout.
It can be argued that the actions of the federal judiciary have the greatest impact on the daily lives of citizens, and that Supreme Court rulings shape the fabric of American society more than the legislative or executive branches ever could. The landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education is a prime example.
You can see the influence of Brown not only in class rooms in primary/secondary public schools and college campuses, but also on the tennis courts, golf courses, basketball courts, football fields, in board rooms, Armed Forces, The White House, and yes, the Supreme Court itself.
Brown has opened doors for such people as Barack Obama, our current President, who is the first African American President, First Black Joint Chief of Staff and Secretary of State Retired General Colin Powell, First black ad female national security adviser Condoleezzi Rice, Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first women to sit on the High Court, Thurgood Marshall, our first Black Supreme Court Justice, and even if he won’t admit it, Clarence Thomas. Soon Brown will have another accomplishment when the first Latino is confirmed to sit on the Supreme Court.
I as well as many Americans are thankful for these so called activist judges for doing their job.
In essence, the more educated the American public becomes about its judiciary, the less politicians will be able to scream “activist!” and get away with it. As shown in the last Presidential election, Americans are tired of politics as usual. Knowing what is going on behind the smoke-screen is the first step toward holding politicians accountable for name-calling, mud-slinging, and counter-productive dialogue.
Maybe these politicians will wise up, stop blowing big smoke out of their butt holes and do their jobs. If not, then we should tell them on no uncertain terms to hit the road Jack, and don’t you come back no more, no more, no more, no more! Otherwise it will be the same ole schickardy just a different butt hole.
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Tags: Activist Judges, armed forces, Barack Obama, Basketball Courts, Board rooms, Brown v. Board of Education, Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, Condoleezzi Rice, Executive Branch, Football Fields, Golf Courses, Judiciary Branch, Justice Souter, Legislative Branch, Politicians, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sandra Day O'Connor, Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court, Tennis Courts, Thurgood Marshall, White House