Tag Archives: affirmative action

Scalia recuse himself from race cases? Not a chance


U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is angry at Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

She’s mad at remarks that Scalia made during oral arguments involving an affirmative case involving the University of Texas. Scalia contended that African-American students might not do as well academically at UT as they would in “slower-track schools.” The statement has drawn much criticism against the outspoken justice.

Pelosi thinks Scalia now must recuse himself from future discrimination cases because of his bias.

Let’s hold on, Mme. Minority Leader.

Don’t misunderstand me. I dislike Scalia’s world view as much as the next progressive. But calling for him to recuse himself from these cases goes way too far. According to Politico: “It’s so disappointing to hear that statement coming from a justice of the Supreme Court. It clearly shows a bias,” Pelosi said. “I think that the justice should recuse himself from any case that relates to discrimination in education, in voting, and I’m sorry that he made that comment.”

Consider something from our recent past.

The highest court in the land once included two justices who were philosophically opposed to capital punishment. The late Justices Thurgood Marshall and William Brennan voted automatically in favor of capital defendants’ death sentence appeals. If a death row inmate’s case made it to the Supreme Court, he or she could depend on at least two votes in favor of the appeal.

In fact, Justice Marshall was particularly blunt about it. He said repeatedly that he opposed capital punishment, yet he took part in those appeals.

Did he ever recuse himself? Did pro-death penalty forces make the case that he should? No to the first; and unlikely to the second.

Federal judges — and includes the nine individuals who sit on the highest court — all have lifetime jobs. That’s how the Constitution set it up. Presidents appoint then; the Senate confirms them and then they are free to vote their conscience.

Scalia need not recuse himself. He is free — as he has been since President Reagan appointed him to the court in 1986 — to speak his mind. He has done so with remarkable candor — and even occasionally with some callousness — ever since.


Elect federal judges? Oh, please!

Many of those on the right are quite fond of criticizing “unelected federal judges” who issue rulings that go against their world view.

What, then, is their alternative? Do they want to elect those who sit on the federal bench? Do they wish to do away with the federal judiciary?

I mention this because the U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld a University of Michigan policy that disallows affirmative action practices when considering who the school should admit. Did those on the left issue similar cries against those “unelected judges”? I didn’t hear any.

And yet, when judges keep striking down states’ bans on same-sex marriage, the cries go out from those who think the federal judiciary is overreaching when it declares states cannot write laws that violate U.S. constitutional provisions, such as the one that provides for “equal protection” under the law, regardless of sexual orientation.

Perhaps my favorite criticism of the high court came when it ruled 5-4 to uphold the Affordable Care Act. The ruling was narrowly defined and it was decided by a single vote, when Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the majority to keep the ACA intact. The criticism — from the right, of course — went something like this: The law should be tossed out because a narrow majority on the Supreme Court voted to keep it, and that the one-vote majority really didn’t mean the law is constitutional.

The founders had it exactly right when they empowered the president with the authority to appoint judges to the bench for life. They sought to de-politicize the federal bench by disallowing the election of federal judges.

States, of course, retain the right to elect judges. Texas even elects judges on partisan ballots, meaning that judicial candidates of one party has a built-in advantage over candidates of the other party. In Texas, that means if you’re a Republican, you’re in; it used to be the other way around, when Democrats were dominant.

Either way, good judges from the “out” party are kicked out simply because they are of the wrong political persuasion.

The federal judiciary, from the Supreme Court on down, functions precisely as the framers intended for it.