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Know the West

Black-robed potentates

  They say that perspective is everything, but Ray Ring gets it mostly wrong in his article on Bush judicial appointments (HCN, 2/16/04: Courting disaster). To say that a "coup" is under way is to ignore history. George Bush is fighting a coup that has been ongoing for decades.

For too long, federal judges have acted like black-robed potentates who look down their noses at the feeble minds of the legislature. They look upon court cases as a way to legislate from the bench, producing laws that don’t exist otherwise.

Federal judges are the ones who have usurped legislative power in a coup — and I applaud judges who see their role as interpreting law and the constitution, not making law they think is better than what the vote of the people have produced.

The judges you so admire are fundamentally undemocratic — they don’t care for the choices that elected officials make and have decided to impose their own instead. Your author doesn’t really decry ideological judges, he just doesn’t like the other side’s judges, and he longs for his own ideologues.

Our democracy works best when judges forsake legislative power and leave that to the people’s representatives. The task is to convince the people of the wisdom of strong environmental laws — not depend on a judicial coup to overthrow the vote of the people. While I share your author’s love of the environment and the wisdom of strong environmental laws, I love democracy more. We must win at the polls, not at the bar.

Barry Crook
Austin, Texas