Judge Sotormayor on Church/State Separation

Jay Sekulow of the conservative American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) claims that Judge Sotomayor is strict on the separation of church and state, meaning she would’ve voted against allowing the display of the Ten Commandments on public property had she been on the high court. Jay did not cite any cases to support his position, and it will be interesting to see what he gives us. But, according to this New York Times article, in 1993, “she struck down as unconstitutional a White Plains law that prohibited the displaying of a menorah in a city park.” So she doesn’t seem to be someone who wants to ban religion from the public life.

But we’ll learn more in the coming weeks.

Published in: on May 26, 2009 at 4:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Judge Sonia Sotomayor

Today, President Obama is announcing his selection of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

Judge Sotomayor has a compelling story. According to the AP (see here):

Sotomayor is a self-described “Newyorkrican” who grew up in a Bronx housing project after her parents moved to New York from Puerto Rico. She has dealt with diabetes since age 8 and lost her father at age 9, growing up under the care of her mother in humble surroundings. As a girl, inspired by the Perry Mason television show, she knew she wanted to be a judge.

A graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School, a former prosecutor and private attorney, Sotomayor became a federal judge for the Southern District of New York in 1992.

As a judge, she has a bipartisan pedigree. She was first appointed by a Republican, President George H.W. Bush, then named an appeals judge by President Bill Clinton in 1997.

At her Senate confirmation hearing more than a decade ago, she said, “I don’t believe we should bend the Constitution under any circumstance. It says what it says. We should do honor to it.”

As far as her judicial philosophy goes, I’m sure we’ll find out more about it in the coming weeks. Here is a good article that details some of her court decisions.

From my perspective, her record is a mixture of good and bad. On a positive note, she dismissed a pro-choice group’s challenge to President Bush’s Mexico City Policy, which prohibited overseas recipients of federal funds to promote abortion. So at least she’s not a pro-abortion fanatic! She also upheld a Muslim inmate’s right to practice his religion. I like that because of my own background as a religious minority. When I practiced Armstrongism, I often went against the grain of society in my desire to obey what I considered “God’s command.” It will be good to have someone on the Supreme Court who understands that predicament.

As a person with Asperger’s, I’m concerned about the rights of the disabled, yet I also don’t want the government to impose unreasonable burdens on businesses. On disability rights, Sotomayor seems to side with the plaintiff most of the time, but she’s not ridiculous about it, for she’s somewhat of a stickler in terms of the law.

Sotomayor does look at the decisions of courts in other countries, and that will be of concern to conservatives. At the same time, the example the article cites of her doing this involved interpretation of an international agreement, which was devised in part by people in other countries. So I don’t think it’s wrong to look at their original intent!

Her record on gun rights could be better. My understanding is that she thinks the Second Amendment applies to the federal government, not the states.

I also don’t care for her record on Affirmative Action. For example, in a prominent case, she upheld New Haven’s invalidation of a firefighters’ exam because not enough minorities did well on it. Obama is looking for a judge who understands how court decisions affect real life. Well, how about the effect of her decision on the firefighters who didn’t get promoted?

One conservative article I read called her a “bully,” but that doesn’t concern me. I’m sure Scalia can take it!

Overall, I think that Sotomayor is a good choice for Obama. Liberals tried to encourage George W. Bush to appoint her as his replacement for Sandra Day O’Connor, and I wouldn’t have liked that, since I wanted Bush to appoint a conservative. But, considering that we don’t have a conservative President right now, Sotomayor looks fine, at least right now.

Published in: on May 26, 2009 at 2:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Avot in M. Nezikim

M.B. Lerner, “The Tractate Avot,” Literature of the Sages: First Part, ed. Shmuel Safrai (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987) 273.

In the Mishnah, the tractate Avot (“fathers”) appears in the division Nezikin (“damages”). Avot concerns such issues as oral Torah, ethics, and theology. Why’s it in Nezikin, which relates to damages? According to Maimonides, Avot is a moral and spiritual guide for magistrates. In Lerner’s words, “Just as a magistrate is in need of a proper code of laws, so too is he in need of a manual of general ethical principles and teaching, and prudent counsel in judicial matters.”

This is a profound statement. Judges are not just magistrates, but they operate within an ethical and a theological framework.

Some believe that a judge should not just interpret the law, but should also enforce justice and righteousness. Those are the sorts of judges Barack Obama says he’ll appoint: the ones who take the underdog into consideration. Would the compilers/authors of Avot agree? Perhaps. Or maybe they wouldn’t have seen a contradiction between the law and justice. They simply wanted the magistrates to appreciate the just foundation of the law.

Published in: on October 20, 2008 at 2:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Gay Man Challenges Gun Control

NPR has an excellent story today, NRA Seeks to Overturn Handgun Bans Beyond D.C. San Francisco has a ban on handguns in public housing, and that negatively affects a gay man, who owns a gun to protect himself from hate crimes. Allied with the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups, he is challenging the anti-gun law in court. And he has that new Supreme Court decision to back him up!

How are liberals going to react to this? They claim to care about the plight of homosexuals. Well, are they going to let them defend themselves from homophobic rednecks, or will they continue to cling to their anti-gun dogma, regardless of whom it hurts? Sure, many (but not all) libs want to take Dr. Dobson off the air in their alleged concern for homosexuals. How about letting them own a gun for self-protection?

Gun control hurts many people from the Democratic Party’s own constituency. After the Civil War, Southern governments prohibited African-Americans from owning firearms. In the late 1960′s, the ban on cheap Saturday Night Specials deprived blacks of cost-effective means for self-protection. It’s refreshing to see that gun groups and a homosexual are allying on an important issue.

Published in: on June 28, 2008 at 9:13 pm  Comments (53)  

"Politicization" of the Justice Department

According to a recent Justice Department audit, the department deliberately rejected liberal or Democratic applicants because of their political positions. For the Justice Department, this kind of hiring practice is against the law, since it’s supposed to be politically independent.

But don’t Republican Presidents generally appoint Republicans? And don’t Democratic candidates generally appoint Democrats? How many conservative Federalist Society members did Bill Clinton appoint?

Plus, if you want politicization, the Wall Street Journal shows that Bill Clinton took the cake:

“Janet Reno…simultaneously fired all 93 U.S. Attorneys in March 1993. Ms. Reno–or Mr. Hubbell–gave them 10 days to move out of their offices.

“At the time, President Clinton presented the move as something perfectly ordinary: ‘All those people are routinely replaced,’ he told reporters, ‘and I have not done anything differently.’ In fact, the dismissals were unprecedented: Previous Presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, had both retained holdovers from the previous Administration and only replaced them gradually as their tenures expired. This allowed continuity of leadership within the U.S. Attorney offices during the transition.

“Equally extraordinary were the politics at play in the firings. At the time, Jay Stephens, then U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia, was investigating then Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, and was ‘within 30 days’ of making a decision on an indictment. Mr. Rostenkowski, who was shepherding the Clinton’s economic program through Congress, eventually went to jail on mail fraud charges and was later pardoned by Mr. Clinton.

“Also at the time, allegations concerning some of the Clintons’ Whitewater dealings were coming to a head. By dismissing all 93 U.S. Attorneys at once, the Clintons conveniently cleared the decks to appoint ‘Friend of Bill’ Paula Casey as the U.S. Attorney for Little Rock. Ms. Casey never did bring any big Whitewater indictments, and she rejected information from another FOB, David Hale, on the business practices of the Arkansas elite including Mr. Clinton. When it comes to ‘politicizing’ Justice, in short, the Bush White House is full of amateurs compared to the Clintons.”

Under Bush, the Justice Department tried to hire conservatives. Under Clinton, firings of U.S. attorneys took place to save Bill’s political hide. Which is worse?

Published in: on June 27, 2008 at 6:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Is the Second Amendment Unlimited?

In my debates with liberals on gun control, they often point out that the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited, meaning that the government can and should place limits on it. Barack Obama actually said this in a debate with Hillary Clinton! In most cases, liberals make this statement after they concede that the right is individual, not collective, showing that you just can’t argue with the words of the founding fathers! But, in any case, I’ve heard all sorts of liberals argue as follows: “Of course the government should place restrictions on the right to bear arms. We don’t want individuals possessing nuclear weapons or anthrax, do we? Do you want people walking down the street with uzis?”

But does the pro-gun side think we should allow the private ownership of nuclear weapons, anthrax, or machine guns? NPR has a story that explains the position of Justice Antonin Scalia, the conservative Supreme Court justice who wrote the decision recognizing the right to bear arms as individual (see here):

“‘Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapons whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose,’ Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority. But it did allow for individuals to have guns for lawful purposes, such as hunting and defending themselves, he said. The majority clearly saw the individual right to own a gun…

Scalia said nothing in Thursday’s ruling should ‘cast doubt on long-standing prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.’”

And so Justice Antonin Scalia believes that the Second Amendment has its limits. Of course, the question is what those limits can be now that we have this new decision. But I think it’s obvious that the District of Columbia was violating the Consitution. The Second Amendment says the people have the right to keep and bear arms. The District of Columbia banned residents from owning handguns. How much more egregious can you get?

But does the National Rifle Association view the Second Amendment as absolute? It’s against the assault weapons ban, right? Here are some quotes from its fact sheet, “Assault Weapons” & Semi-Autos:

“Semi-automatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns are also used for protection…Handguns are the type of gun most often used for protection, and about three-fourths of new handguns sold today are semi-automatic…

“Contrary to the claims of ‘gun control’ groups, semi-autos don’t ‘spray fire’ and are not ‘easy to convert’ into machine guns. Easily convertible guns are prohibited by federal law and conversion is a federal felony punishable by 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine…

“The Clinton Gun Ban’s 10-round magazine limit interferes with the right to self-defense. Police officers use standard-size magazines for good reason–their protection. Other citizens also have the right to defend themselves, and a magazine-capacity limit puts them at a disadvantage when defending themselves.”

Apparently, the NRA doesn’t treat the Second Amendment as unlimited, for I didn’t see it argue against the law that bans the conversion of a gun into a machine gun. So it must believe that individuals should not own machine guns. What concerns the NRA is this: Does the ban on semi-automatics severely limit the right and the ability of people to protect themselves? And its conclusion is, “Yes, it does.” Many handguns sold today are semi-automatic, meaning that the ban on “assault weapons” is not a prohibition on machine guns, but on many of the regular guns that you’d find in stores. And cops see a need to carry semi-automatic weapons for self-defense. So aren’t we leaving people somewhat defenseless when we deprive them of that opportunity?

The Second Amendment is not unlimited, but it does recognize the right of individuals to protect themselves. The question is which gun control laws inhibit people from exercising this right. Those are the laws that violate the Second Amendment.

Published in: on June 27, 2008 at 1:59 pm  Comments (2)  

Mary and Adam: Morning and Afternoon

The Hallmark Channel has four Little House on the Prairie episodes each day, two in the morning, and two in the afternoon. In the two morning ones today, Mary loses her sight and meets her future husband, Adam, who also is blind. In the two afternoon ones, Adam regains his sight. How’s that for a coincidence?

Mary is sad that Adam regains his sight. She fears that she’ll be a burden to him and that he’ll leave her behind for his sighted friends. On a previous episode, there was hope that Mary would get her sight back, and Adam was upset for the same reasons (he was still blind at the time). Maybe Adam should’ve been more sensitive to Mary once he got his sight back, since he once felt the same way that Mary did.

There’s one part that has always puzzled me. On the one in which Adam gets his sight back, he takes a series of tests to become a lawyer. But he gets sick and misses a few of them, and he is required to wait a year before he can take them again. Mary goes to the professor and calls such a rule “unfair.” “If a law is unjust, does the court have the power to annul it?” she asks. “The court has such power,” the professor responds.

Does it? I mean, I know that the Supreme Court can annul laws that violate the Constitution. But can it get rid of laws on the sole basis that it deems them unfair? Talk about judicial activism and legislating from the bench!

Published in: on June 26, 2008 at 9:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Here’s the Worse Part…

The AP has a news story today entitled “Gay Marriage Opponents Vow to Fight California Ruling” (see here). It’s about the recent California Supreme Court decision that recognizes gay marriage. As if the decision isn’t bad enough, here are some other details:

“With a stroke of a pen Thursday, the Republican-dominated court swept away decades of tradition and said there was no legally justifiable reason why the state should withhold the institution of marriage because of a couple’s sexual orientation.”

“Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has twice vetoed legislation that would have granted marriage to same-sex couples, said in a statement he respected the court’s decision and ‘will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling.’”

Do you notice that? It’s Republicans who did this! If we can’t trust them to uphold traditional marriage, whom can we trust?

Published in: on May 16, 2008 at 4:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Antonin Scalia: "Get Over It!"

60 Minutes has a good profile of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia. Scalia says that the court owes no one an apology for what it decided in Bush v. Gore. He also points out that Gore was the one who brought the case to the Supreme Court in the first place.

I love Scalia. First of all, he doesn’t allow liberals to intimidate him. Many liberals try to force an apology out of everyone who doesn’t see the world as they do. Well, Scalia doesn’t play their game. And, second, Scalia says that Gore has no right to pout. He brought the case to the Supreme Court, so he should just live with its decision.

Published in: on April 27, 2008 at 5:20 pm  Comments (2)  

Charlton Heston (October 4, 1924-April 5, 2008)

“Take your stinkin‘ paws off me you d–n, dirty ape!”

“You maniacs! D–n you all to hell!”

Soylent Green is made of people!”

“Turn from thy fierce wrath, Oh Lord!”

“Those who shall not live by the law…”

“The day Rome falls, there shall be a shout of freedom such as the world has never heard before!”

“Judas Priest!”

“From my cold, dead hand!”

Well, the world has lost a legend today. We’ve lost a lot of them over the past few years: Jerry Falwell, William F. Buckley, Jr. These are people you think are immortal, until their mortality proves otherwise.

Charlton Heston has always been my favorite actor. I’m sure that there are a lot of his movies that I have not seen, but two of them rank among my favorites: The Ten Commandments and Planet of the Apes. I watch The Ten Commandments every Passover season, and each year I get something new out of it. And Planet of the Apes is intriguing sci fi that touches such issues as the creation/evolution controversy and nuclear war.

I also liked Charlton Heston because of his politics. He was an outspoken Republican, particularly in the last twenty years of his life. He was obviously a convert to conservatism, for he was not always in the GOP. He supported Adlai Stevenson for President in the 1950′s, as well as some restrictions on guns in the 1960′s and 1970′s. And, despite Michael Moore’s disingenuous attempt in Bowling for Columbine to depict him as a racist, Heston marched in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960′s, before it was deemed fashionable for actors to do so. As a matter of fact, he sparked controversy by performing an interracial kiss in one of his movies.

My dad and his friends are members of the NRA, and they always called him “our President.” When I was in seventh grade, my liberal social studies teacher showed a speech by Charlton Heston to the NRA, some years before his Presidency of that organization. “Some of you will hang on his every word,” my teacher said, looking at me. And I did, since Heston made good points. He pointed out, for example, that Washington, D.C. has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, yet also a high crime rate. I know that Heston had Alzheimer’s in the later years of his life, so I hope he was able to celebrate the recent Supreme Court decision that upheld the individual right to keep and bear arms.

Liberals criticized Heston because he had NRA conventions in cities where school shootings had recently occurred. This wasn’t necessarily deliberate on his part. Often, they were planned long before the shootings had taken place. But why should Heston have cancelled the conventions, as if the NRA is somehow to blame? It just astounds me how many liberals expect the whole world to embrace their presuppositions, even though a lot of people clearly do not.

Speaking of Heston and guns, Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine actually makes Heston look good, in areas, although the overall depiction of him is quite negative.  I didn’t realize that getting to see Charlton Heston was so easy. Michael Moore just spoke into the intercom, introduced himself, and made an appointment with the big man himself. Although Heston was one of the most famous actors of all time, he was still humble, friendly, and accessible.

And so I’ll miss Charlton Heston. But I’ll see him this coming Passover when I watch The Ten Commandments.

Published in: on April 6, 2008 at 11:05 am  Leave a Comment  

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