Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Meet the hypocrites: Senators Jeff Sessions and Chuck Grassley

[I hesitate to post another installment of this series so close to the last one, as there is no particular tie to the Pacific Northwest. However, since the nomination and confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice is of vital importance to our nation, the hypocrisy of the members of the Senate committee charged with making that decision must be exposed.]

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, made the following remarks in his opening statement at the confirmation hearing of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court yesterday:

I will not vote for—no senator should vote for—an individual nominated by any President who believes it is acceptable for a judge to allow their own personal background, gender, prejudices, or sympathies to sway their decision in favor of, or against, parties before the court.

In my view, such a philosophy is disqualifying.

Oh really, Senator Sessions?

Here's Justice Samuel Alito, during his confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee.

When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account. When I have a case involving someone who's been subjected to discrimination because of disability, I have to think of people who I've known and admire very greatly who've had disabilities, and I've watched them struggle to overcome the barriers that society puts up often just because it doesn't think of what it's doing -- the barriers that it puts up to them.

Justice Alito noted that he would allow his personal background and sympathies to influence his decisions. Guess how Senator Sessions voted on the Alito nomination?

First he voted aye on a 10-8 party line vote in the Judiciary Committee to move the nomination to the Senate floor, and then aye once again to approve the confirmation. That's two votes for empathy from Senator Sessions.

But Senator Sessions isn't the only hypocrite among the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Take, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), for example. Here is his statement from Judge Sotomayor's confirmation hearing yesterday:
President Obama said that he would nominate judges based on their ability to "empathize" in general and with certain groups in particular. This "empathy" standard is troubling to me. In fact, I'm concerned that judging based on 'empathy" is really just legislating from the bench.

The Constitution requires that judges be free from personal politics, feelings and preferences. President Obama's "empathy" standard appears to encourage judges to make use of their personal politics, feelings and preferences. This is contrary to what most of us understand to be the role of the judiciary.
Senator Grassley, like his colleague from Alabama, voted aye and aye.

What the senators really mean when they say that they don't want empathetic judges, is that judges can be empathetic, but only if it's for a conservative cause.


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