Save us from “open-minded” judges!
“I have no platform,” John Roberts told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. “I have no agenda, but I do have a commitment. If I am confirmed, I will confront every case with an open mind.”
Any conservative who feels assured by such a statement is not being attentive to the meaning of words. A thoughtful judge, a thoughtful person, is not equally “open” to any idea that comes along; he is expected already to have a framework of established understandings, precedents, principles—including the very meaning of the words that are being used—to guide him. If a litigant argued, say, that the Constitution really means that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment, or that the federal government can take over all state legislative functions, or that the Constitution is supposed to be interpreted so as to be in conformity with current moral and social attitudes in Europe, would Roberts be “open” to such an argument? How can judges decide on the rightness or wrongness of any case, and have their judgements be seen as legitimate by the community, unless there are settled standards by which to make a judgment, in other words, unless there are certain matters that are not open?
Only a judge who has no principles, and who is ready to drift wherever fashion or expediency takes him, would say that he confronts every case with an “open” mind. It’s a statement that could be made only by a liberal relativist.