Compare and contrast: 1) Democrats praising Chief Justice Roberts’ pushback against Trump’s claim that judges are political. 2) Democratic senators (and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.,) trying to block a judicial nominee for political reasons.
“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” read a statement from Roberts on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.”
And of course, Roberts was showered with praise from the left side of the aisle.
Thank you Justice Roberts.
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) November 21, 2018
I don’t agree very often with Chief Justice Roberts, especially his partisan decisions which seem highly political on Citizens United, Janus, and Shelby.
But I am thankful today that he—almost alone among Republicans—stood up to President Trump and for an independent judiciary.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) November 23, 2018
Thanks Chief Justice Roberts for your powerful rebuke to Trump— refuting his demagogic denunciation of an “Obama judge.” When the history of this dark era is written, our independent judiciary (& free press) will be the heroes. Our gratitude goes to them this Thanksgiving. https://t.co/uGtPrMkQRl
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) November 21, 2018
Fast-forward one week later, and every single Senate Democrat has locked arms in a political play against a Trump judicial nominee.
The nominee’s name is Thomas Alvin Farr, and he’s been waiting to find out his fate since July 2017. His opposition claims that putting him on the federal bench would be a blow to minority voting rights. Farr’s political resume includes working for former North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms and working on voter ID and redistricting procedures in the Tarheel State.
But I thought that federal judges were purely non-political? Surely once he’s nominated he would be just like the rest of the judges that Justice Roberts referred to — completely free of any baggage from the president who nominated him and simply doing his “level best to do equal right?”
The bottom line is that all judges are fallible human beings in robes who can and do make mistakes and therefore cannot be treated as inerrant priests of human government. We could also acknowledge that the process to appoint and confirm them is indeed political; at least it is somewhat accountable to the people through their elected officials.
So no, federal judges are not above criticism for their words, actions, and decisions. They are not only subject to public assessment and denunciation by elected officials, but they and the courts on which they sit are subject to congressional checks, including impeachment of judges and Article III control over the courts’ jurisdiction, size, and very existence.
We could have that conversation, but this is American politics in the Trump era. Fawning over vapid platitudes and dealing in shrieking intellectual dishonesty are much more in fashion.