Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Judges R Us

Morris Communications shill-disguised-as-a-journo Walter Jones gets all in a tizzy about judge shopping in today's ABH (and, one would assume, in the Augusta Chronicle and Savannah Morning News.)
Did the folks opposing the bill do a little venue shopping in order to find a friendly judge? Probably, yeah. Is Judge Murphy any less qualified, and is his court any less proper for the case? No.
Now I'm more than willing to let our legal editor address the legal arguments about judge shopping, but you should know that it isn't just a Democratic tactic.
Here's what's really disturbing. Faced with a court challenge, the proponents of this law have mounted an impressive public relations campaign. They've gone to great lengths to get their pundits and their talking heads, and their elected officials on television, on the radio, and in the print media. The approach has been fantastic, but the message leaves something to be desired.
You see, instead of taking the high road and giving their bill the type of issues-oriented defense that some of the more rational proponents believe it deserves, the GOP has taken to the airwaves to start a smear-bombing campaign against the judge, the appeals court, the groups who oppose the law, and apparently, the judicial system in general.
Here's the thing. If the GOP had actually attempted to defend their bill to the masses instead of attacking the judicial system and the judge that granted the injunction, they might have changed some people's minds. Instead, they made the conscious choice to come across sounding like a bunch of whiny toddlers after someone takes away their G.I. Joes. C'est las politics.
Hey Republicans, if your law is so good, then why can't it stand on the merits? Why the sleaze? Why the smear campaign?
We think we know the answer to that. As as been explained exhaustively in previous posts, the law doesn't have a Constitutional leg to stand on. The big brains in the GOP know this, and expecting the law to be struck down, they're doing a little pre-emptive damage control. If the law goes down in federal court, then they get one more notch on the GOP's anti-judicial bedpost (blame the activist judges), and a little more ammo to use in their continuing fight to emasculate the judicial system.
Sigh. Maybe the GOP has a point though. If only there were a way for them to have Judge Murphy's decision reviewed, in case he was biased, or if he granted the injunction on frivolous grounds...
Oh wait, there is. It's called the Court of Appeals, and you lost there too.
One has to wonder when the GOP attack machine is going to start laying into the 11th Circuit Judges that denied their appeal. Since said attack machine might have taken the weekend off to go to the Florida game or something, we're going to go ahead and do their work for them. These three appellate judges, all of them raging liberals, possibly even Socialists, really. Let's take a look at them. Judge Stanley Birch, appointed in 1990 by George Bush. Judge Joel Dubina, appointed in 1990, by George Bush. And of course, Judge Frank Hull, who actually was appointed by a Democrat (Bill Clinton in 1997). Of course, given how bad the GOP was at the time about stonewalling Clinton's nominee's, we have to assume that Hull was at least marginally palatable to the Republicans.
So there you have it. In fact, the background of these three judges, who ruled on the injunction, totally negates the point made by Walter Jones and the GOP, that politics have somehow played a role in this whole imbroglio. While the injunction was granted by a Carter appointee, it was upheld by two Bush appointees and a Clinton appointee. Or did the Clinton appointe work some sort of crazy Democratic judicial mind-control spookery on the other two? We're just waiting to hear that talking point.
Now speaking of Walter Jones, we also wanted to address some of his wackjobbery. Specifically, we wanted to talk about his somewhat subtle implication that if only our judges were elected, then venue shopping would just *poof* magically disappear. Now to those of us who live in the world of reason and logic, nothing could be more divorced from the truth. For instance, assume that you wanted to try a voting rights case in state court (not federal court as in this matter). And further assume that you had a choice between doing so in beautiful Athens, GA which went about 60% for Kerry, or beautiful Oconee County, which (to put it succintly) didn't exactly cotton on to Kerry. (FWIW, presidential performance is as good a way as any to get a rough idea of ideology in this situation) If you're trying to uphold voting rights, which will you choose? The answer's pretty obvious. If anything, it will make it easier to venue shop, by cutting down on the research one has to do. Of course, we already elect most of our local judges, and venue shopping is just as prevalent on the local level as on the higher levels, if not more so.
This is Republican politics at its finest. And the thing is, it shouldn't be political at all. The groups and people who oppose this law have, for the most part, tried to keep this thing where it belongs - in the courts, and off the front page, until a decision is made. The opponents will comment, but they aren't whoring themselves out to the media like a Bill Stephens or Glenn Richardson. (Friends under the Gold Dome tell us that the most dangerous place in Atlanta is between Glenn Richardson and a camera.) No, unfortunately, it's the Republicans who have chosen to make this into a political issue. It's the Republicans who won't debate on the merits, and insread choose to go into attack mode. And it's the Republicans who should be ashamed of themselves.
Just business as usual in the GOP.


RandomThoughts said...

Every time an issue becomes controversial someone goes negative. It's as inevitable as death and taxes. And just as inevitably, someone is surprised. Hey people, it's gonna happen. I agree, it should not. I agree that every issue should be debated on merits. But this happens with both Republicans and Democrats. Would that they remember what their mama's told them yea these many years ago 'if you can't say something good about someone, don't say anything at all'.

Publius said...

This isn't about "going negative." This is about the fact that instead of defending their bill, the GOP and their supporters are attacking the judicial system. That kind of behavior should raise a red flag in the minds of anyone who is trying to figure out which way to go on the issue.

Sure, when issues become controversial, the mudslinging usually begins, so should I not put my spin out there for people?

According to your comment, I shouldn't. I should just let the GOP throw around baseless allegations about political bias in the judiciary, right? To me, that's how Democrats lose elections, at least recently. By not responding. Back me up, John Kerry!

By the way, I wasn't in the least bit surprised that instead of defending their precious poll tax...err...voter ID law, the GOP decided to go on the attack against the judges involved in the injunction. I've been around politics long enough to know GOP business as usual when I see it.

RandomThoughts said...

Whoa! Back that horse up!

I was not implying that you should not respond to negative comments. I am a firm believer in self-defense. My point was that it should not be tolerated at all. By anyone. But more and more it is considered - rightfully - to be inevitable.

I was just surprised by the heat in your post when I would think that what was done was 'business as usual' as you say. Go for it. Keep up the passion for your opinion. We old cynics will just slink off to the side.

Publius said...

I'll stay with my orginial talking points. If the law is so great, then why can't they defend it on the merits? Actually that's a question anyone with an open mind should ask.

The answer is easy. Throwing around the sleaze like this is easier, because it doesn't require much in the way of original thought, and face it, negative campaigning (not that this is necessarily campaigning) gets more ink than issues.

But let me say one thing about going negative in general. Politics is a market economy, and it operates on the principles of supply and demand. For the last few decades, the market (the voters) has demanded negative ads over substance. (If you're looking for a cusp event, you might use Bush's 88 "Willie Horton" ads, but that's not necessarily indicative of when the trend started.)
Voters have shown through the most empirical data of all, their behavior at the polls, that negative campaigning works.
So, don't completely blame the pols. They're just giving the people what they want. If going negative didn't work (that is to say, if throwing mud didn't move votes), then campaigns woudn't do it.

RandomThoughts said...

I agree with you completely. The problem lies with the general public accepting this sort of behavior. And the ending of all this mudslinging has to begin with the general public. That's what I meant when I said that this kind of behavior should not be tolerated by anyone at all.

And I don't think that most people like it, they just expect it and tolerate it. and, occasionally, believe it. It needs to be stopped so that voters can look at the issues barefaced. But it won't stop until we stop accepting it.

Fishplate said...

I expect it, ignore it, and refuse to vote for a majority party candidate because they participate...whenever there's an alternative, I have a choice. When it's just a Dem or Rep, I can't see a difference.