Monday, May 19, 2008

OBAMA'S VIEWS ON THE SUPREME COURT

LA TIMES Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.), in a speech two weeks ago, echoed the views of conservatives who say "judicial activism" is the central problem facing the judiciary. He called it the "common and systematic abuse . . . by an elite group . . . we entrust with judicial power." On Thursday, he criticized the California Supreme Court for giving gays and lesbians the right to marry, saying he doesn't "believe judges should be making these decisions."

Sen. Obama (D-Ill.) said he was most concerned about a conservative court that tilted to the side of "the powerful against the powerless," and to corporations and the government against individuals. "What's truly elitist is to appoint judges who will protect the powerful and leave ordinary Americans to fend for themselves," he said in response to McCain.

During one campaign stop, Obama spoke admiringly of Chief Justice Earl Warren, the former California governor who led the court in the 1950s and '60s, when it struck down racial segregation and championed the cause of civil rights.

Obama has also praised current Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter. "I want people on the bench who have enough empathy, enough feeling, for what ordinary people are going through," Obama said. . .

Obama has thrown the charge of judicial activism back at Republicans.

"The nation has just witnessed how quickly settled law can change when activists judges are confirmed," he said last year. "In decisions covering employment discrimination to school integration, the Roberts-Alito Supreme Court has turned back the clock on decades of hard-fought civil rights progress.". . .

When Obama voted against Alito's confirmation, he predicted the New Jersey judge would rule on the side of corporations. "If there is a case involving an employer and an employee, and the Supreme Court has not given clear direction, he'll rule in favor of the employer," Obama said a year before the court took up the Ledbetter case. . .

"Both a [conservative Justice Antonin] Scalia and a Ginsburg will arrive at the same place most of the time," he said during the Roberts confirmation hearings. "What matters at the Supreme Court is those 5% of cases that are truly difficult. In those cases, adherence to precedent and rules of construction will only get you through 25 miles of the marathon. That last mile can only be determined on the basis of one's deepest values, one's core concerns, one's broader perspectives on how the world works and the depth and breadth of one's empathy. In those difficult cases, the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge's heart."

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