Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Democrats' reaction to Sotomayor's Catholicism reflects double standard - WSJ.com

Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton, says the Sotomayor hearings highlight a glaring double standard about how the Catholicism of judicial nominees is treated -- and the great irony this treatment exposes.

"According to one theory of jurisprudence," says Mr. George, "the judge may not bring his own moral beliefs or personal feelings to bear on his rulings on what the law is. This is the view held by people like Scalia and Alito and Roberts."

This means that a judge who is personally pro-life can uphold a pro-choice law -- and a judge who is personally pro-choice can uphold a pro-life law. What matters is the law, not the personal feelings. When judges follow this path, they take some of the heat out of culture wars. That's because those who want to change the law -- pro-life or pro-choice -- have to do it the way our Founders intended: through their elected representatives.

"The other theory of jurisprudence," the professor told me, "holds that the judge has a responsibility to bring his or her moral beliefs to cases. This is famously defended by scholars such as Ronald Dworkin, and practiced by judges such as William Brennan and John Paul Stevens."

"Among the many problems with this view is that it leads inexorably to the politicization of the judicial process. If someone expects us to accept this theory as a legitimate judicial philosophy, then he or she has to be prepared to answer questions about what his or her moral beliefs or personal feelings are -- and where they come from."

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