Following the news that Justice Souter will be retiring this summer after the Supreme Court’s present term ends, President Obama dropped into the White House briefing room this afternoon and commented on how what he will be looking for in a replacement. Unfortunately, his remarks were in keeping with his prior statements during the campaign and when he voted against the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts. His words should upset Americans who overwhelmingly want justices who recognize their responsibility and duty to adhere to the Constitution and to apply the laws passed by Congress – not make new law based on their own personal, political, and social beliefs.
Obama said that he will “seek someone who understands justice and isn’t about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book.” He apparently wants someone who knows “how our laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives; whether they can make a living and care for their families; whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation. I view that quality of empathy and understanding and identifying what people’s hopes and struggles are as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.”
These are code words for placing a justice on the Supreme Court who will not be impartial or objective and who will not apply the laws passed by Congress and the provisions of the Constitution framed by our Founders. Obama’s actions since he has been in office make it clear that he believes that the limits the Constitution places on the power of the government are just “some abstract legal theory.” His comments shows that Obama wants a judge who has the same political and social views he does, and who will bend, break, and ignore the Constitution to obtain the political and societal results that liberals want – especially if they cannot obtain them through the legislative process.
Americans want an umpire on the Court who applies the rules of the Constitution and our laws in an objective, nonpartial manner; President Obama apparently wants an umpire who bends or makes up the rules to favor his team. Our constitutional system and its careful balance of power is premised on judges who carry out their roles as judges, not legislators or social activists.
The President’s views should sound an alarm not just throughout the legal community. Citizens whose daily lives are affected more and more by the decisions made by the Supreme Court should be alarmed as well.