September 10, 2008

Palin’s Impact on Judicial Picks

An article in the Legal Times discusses the impact that Sarah Palin and Joe Biden would have on judicial picks if elected vice president. For those who question the potential influence of a VP on judicial selection, the Legal Times notes that “Gore was a strong voice … in pushing the nominations of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.” The article concludes that
“Palin … is thought to be an assurance that Sen. John McCain will make good on his promise to nominate more judges in the mold of Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel Alito Jr.”
We agree:
“McCain’s choice of Palin, a social conservative, shut down criticism from [CFJ’s Curt] Levey and others. ‘McCain is a moderate, and she’s more of a movement conservative,’ Levey says. ‘If she has any effect on his judicial picks, I think it’ll be a positive one.’”
The article notes that, while Palin has less of a record than Biden on judicial selection – as Judiciary chairman, he led the fight to defeat Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas – Palin
“already has had more impact on the Alaska judiciary than her predecessor. Since taking office in December 2006, Palin has seated more than a dozen judges, including a state Supreme Court justice and a state court of appeals judge, the first appellate appointments in the state in more than a decade.”
Palin’s questions when interviewing potential nominees for the Alaska bench give assurance that she understands two of the most important principles of judicial selection: 1) select nominees who believe in judicial modesty and restraint, and 2) impose no litmus tests (both principles can be found in the judges section of the GOP’s 2008 platform). The Legal Times reports that
“[Andy] Harrington, executive director of Alaska Legal Services Corp., interviewed with Palin in November 2007, days after the state Supreme Court issued a ruling striking down a law that required girls less than 17 years old and younger to get permission from their parents before receiving an abortion. … Harrington anticipated a question about the ruling. But Palin never asked about the case or any other, Harrington says. … At one point, she asked him to define an activist judge. … Another judicial candidate who interviewed with Palin this year says Palin asked questions about work history, background, and basic judicial philosophy. ‘Some of my colleagues say the Constitution is a living, breathing document. What do you think?’ Palin asked.”
Of course, some liberal judges and commentators claim that it is they who believe in judicial restraint. And perhaps a few of them do. But for those who doubt which side of the political spectrum most consistently supports the rule of law, the results of a Rasmussen survey this month should dispel those doubts. The survey found that McCain supporters overwhelming believe – by an 82% to 11% margin – that “the Supreme Court [should] make decisions based on what's written in the Constitution and legal precedents,” rather than “be guided mostly by a sense of fairness and justice.” Obama supporters, on the other hand, believe the converse by a 49% to 29% margin.

Finally, see here for a bio on U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska of New York, who was nominated yesterday to the Second Circuit.