Follow the Constitution, not fear

Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s first nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, is currently facing confirmation hearings.

Talking Points Memo has enlisted an appellate litigator to sift through the proceedings. If you enjoy law, as I do, Pincus’s live reporting is very interesting.

I am particularly delighted by an exchange between Sotomayor and Senator Feingold. Feingold asked a question about the Korematsu case,

in which the Supreme Court upheld the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Judge Sotomayor says the decision was wrong, and Feingold asks how Justices can avoid such errors. “A judge should never rule from fear. A judge should rule from law and the Constitution.”

How does a judge resist fears? “By having the wisdom to understand always no matter what the situation that our Constitution has held us in good stead for over 200 years and that our survival depends on upholding it.”

In brief, judges should be guided by the Constitution, not fear. In light of everything that happened during the Bush years (when fear was used as a pretext for executive actions contrary to the Constitution), those are very reassuring words indeed.

Also relevant:  Sotomayor’s reply here:  “In answer to your specific question, Did [9/11] change my view of the Constitution? — No sir.”


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lizzygram
    Jul 14, 2009 @ 21:46:23

    What is the Constitution?? Haven’t heard of it in so long…We live under dictatorship now….


  2. Jack
    Jul 15, 2009 @ 00:23:11

    We live under dictatorship now….

    That is just silly. It is patently false and ridiculous.


  3. lizzygram
    Jul 15, 2009 @ 01:20:13

    Then what and hell would you call it??? We are told that we need to wear seat belts, we are told where we can smoke, we are told how we can raise our children, we are told we have to have auto insurance (whether u can afford it or not), we are being told that we need to purchase health insurance (whether or not u can afford it), and ect.
    We don’t have a real vote with the electorial college… We are now being told that the same sex marriages should be allowed. We are being told that abortions should be illegal. We are being stripped of all our rights…….Please explain to me why my comment of a dictatorship is so far off and so silly.


  4. billarends
    Jul 15, 2009 @ 10:39:03

    Lizzygram – You really have no concept of a dictatorship. Dictatorships are places were you live in fear of being hauled off to prison for no good reason. Where just living your life can get you in trouble. Like being told that your marriage is not legal, or the way you choose to have sex is immoral. That is dictatorial. Yes banning same sex marriage when a large percent of your population is gay is the action of a dictatorship. When was the last time you were threatened with prison for smoking or not wearing your seat belt, the worse you get is a fine. When a majority of people support an action the action or law ceases to be dictatorial. Come live in Canada where we have more rules and we like them because we don’t have to worry about getting cancer from second hand smoke (smoking is a filthy habit we can do without) less people die from car accidents because wear our seat belts. If as you seem to think a dictatorship is not far away, then you need to leave your country for a few years and go live in North Korea, or Myanmar. Much as we as Canadians complain about our system that does not allow us to vote for a Prime Minister but the Prime Ministers party, and the way Americans complain that your country not allowing you to vote for a President directly, this system prevents dictatorships more than it causes them. The less checks and balances in place, the more chances a charismatic leader can draw the country into a dictatorship. If Nixon had continued unchecked and centered the government in the presidency as he wanted to, then you would have had a more dictatorial state. If Bush’s republicans had been allowed to continue eroding civil liberties for “security reasons” you would have been closer to a dictatorship. What stopped these regimes, DEMOCRACY and that is a key part of ours and your governments. Personally I don’t ascribe the basest motives to government just because they don’t do things I personally like. To a degree we do live in a dictatorship the dictatorship of the majority, and at times this curtails our rights, like the right to bear arms and accidentally shoot our neighbours, the right to shout racist obscenities in the media and spread hatred, the right to pray in schools and force our religion on others etc…. To think that even with the draconian abuses of human rights bought in by George Bush and his cronies and in Canada Stephen Harper and his TRADITIONAL values conservative buddies, that we are anywhere near a dictatorship is not just silly it is Ludicrous. The slogan on your website “Government and its Filth” is just reactionary. Yes our civil liberties are at risk but we still have several tings that prevent us (both the US and Canada) from ever becoming a dictatorship, we vote for the party not the person, we have a multilevel government system, we don’t allow individual groups to control government (like the bigoted antigay lobby).

    Jack is right – to say “’We live under dictatorship now’ . . is patently false and ridiculous.” Your so called evidence of dictatorship to me just points to the lack of a dictatorial ability in our system.

    Stephen sorry for the length of the comment but Lizzygram’s comment was just too much to swallow, without a response.


  5. Jack
    Jul 15, 2009 @ 12:33:04

    Thank you Bill. It just irks me to see such things. The US is many things and it has many issues and problems, but dictatorship is not among them.

    No one is going to come take us away for criticizing the government. The freedom to say these things, to debate and denounce is something that I treasure.

    This is not Iran where police forces are beating up and murdering those who oppose their policies.


  6. billarends
    Jul 15, 2009 @ 12:56:21

    True – but Iran is a theocratic oligarchy a much scarier beast. Types like Lizzygram tend to walk the border of rampant individualism, a type I find common south of Canada’s borders. No insult but too much individualism makes one lean toward anarchy (no government) something Lizzygram would find more acceptable than Socialism. I suspect Lizzygram is the definative gun toting anti-government individualistic American. The type that would bow only to Charleton Heston or Ayn Rand.


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