Austin, Texas 10/28/2004
The campaign is almost over and the great ad blitz is in full swing.
No, I'm not talking about the presidential race; I'm not even talking about the various legislative races that are going on, filled with claim, counterclaim and hyperbole as they are (putting the most virulent of the national ads to shame, by the way). I'm talking about judges.
Here in Texas, judges are elected. Most seats are not particularly contested (as I said, this is Texas), but the rhetoric still flies. And time after time, what you hear sounds something like this:
"He shares our values. He'll be tough on crime. He'll strictly interpret the laws, not legislate from the bench."
As they say in the land of my birth, "Gimme a break!" Judges, of whatever stripe, legislate from the bench all the time. All the time. It's what they do. Left or right -- it doesn't matter. And, seriously, there's nothing wrong with that. It's the very reason why we even bother to subject judges to the political process (whether it be by election, legislative confirmation or any other method). Otherwise, we'd just have some faceless technocrat -- a legal engineer, as it were -- making these decisions. We don't; it's obviously too important.
It's high time we 'fess up on this, from both sides, at the very least in the name of honesty. (We do want honest judges, don't we? Oh wait, don't answer that). Wouldn't it be nice to hear something like:
"When he's elected he'll make sure that every possible step will be taken to imprison people who you, the voting public, find scary -- no matter what the demonstrable facts are. He treasures the values of the common people -- who can tell who's guilty just by lookin' at 'em. He'll make sure to make things right for people like us"
Same message -- we've just broken the code.
So let's cut out this "strict interpretation" stuff, OK?