Obama’s Criterion for Judge Selection

On July 17, 2007 Obama, speaking at a Planned Parenthood conference, revealed his views on how he would select Supreme Court Justices: “We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that’s the criteria by which I’m going to be selecting my judges.” (Source). [Update – Here are more of Obama’s comments]. While empathy is a wonderful quality – one of the greatest qualities a person can have – that’s his criterion for selecting a judge? What ever happened to selecting people who will judge according to the law?

Alan Paton, a great South African writer, wrote of the responsibilities of judges: “Because the land is a land of fear [I’d say this applies to the U.S.], a Judge must be without fear, so that justice may done according to the Law; therefore a Judge must be incorruptible. The Judge does not make the Law. It is the People that make the Law. Therefore if a Law is unjust, and if the Judge judges according to the Law, that is justice, even if it is not just. It is the duty of a Judge to do justice, but it is only the People that can be just. Therefore if justice be not just, that is not to be laid at the door of the Judge, but at the door of the People.”

Judges need to judge according to the law, citizens make the laws (or at least elect those who do). They need to be honest and incorruptible people. Again, while empathy is a desired quality, judges need to judge according to the law and Constitution and those qualities should take precedence over empathy. Besides, Obama said he just wants judges who have empathy for “young teenage mom[s]…[the] poor, African-American, gay, disabled, or old people.” What about Hispanics, non-poor, Caucasians, non-disabled, average, unintelligent, intelligent, religious, non-religious, or any other group of people? I think Obama’s criterion for selecting judges is severely lacking.

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