Evaluating Judges Through a Wider Lens

By January 18, 2005Briefly Legal

For those of you not regular readers of the New York Times, there’s an editorial there today on our boss, NAM President John Engler. The Times doesn’t make a habit of talking about us in their editorials, but we apparently have piqued their interest.

Under the heading, “Upping the Judicial Ante” they opine — not unfavorably — on John Engler’s stated intention to support federal judicial nominees who interpret the law rather than make law from the bench. It is a laudable goal. For too long, in his view. federal judicial nominees have been seen only through a narrow prism, identified by whatever social issue the left deems important. Along the way, we’ve lost many a good fair-minded judge to filibuster, inaction and defeat.

John Engler’s point — made in a Tom Hamburger front page story in the LA Times on January 6 — is that we need to look at the totality of judges’ records, and especially on their decisions affecting manufacturers. Did they interpret contracts or write new ones? Did they rein in legal excess or allow it to go unfettered? In fact, as Engler points out, judges will spend the vast majority or their time on these sorts of issues, not on social issues. We want to make sure — same as we do with elected officials — that they are men and women who don’t make it harder for American manufacturers to survive and prosper. It’s that simple, although liberal groups like the People for the American Way (a misnomer if ever there was one) have attacked us and others over this notion. What on earth will they do if judges start being evaluated on the totality of their decisions and not just on one narrow issue, or two? It might undermine the American Way’ers’ view of the world, no?

“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea”, said 20th Century philosopher Emile Chartier, “when it’s the only one you have.” The Johnny one-notes of judicial nominations have met their match. As the aperture for evaluating judges grows wider, and people view them in their totality, we hope to see more fair-minded judges join the federal bench.