The defense of Justice Ginsberg’s political remarks shows liberal bias in the legal profession

The defense of Justice Ginsberg’s political remarks shows liberal bias in the legal profession

The defense of Justice Ginsberg’s political remarks shows liberal bias in the legal profession

This week Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg made the news when she publically criticized Republican nominee Donald Trump. While most Court observers were not surprised at her partisan leanings, many were very surprised that a Supreme Court Justice would make such partisan statements to the press.

Justice Ginsberg, NYT
Justice Ginsburg, NYT

Judges, by virtue of their honorable employment, usually refrain from making public political statements. Federal judges are bound by a Code of Conduct that prohibits them from entering into the political arena, but Supreme Court Justices are not bound by that same code. They are however bound by law to recuse themselves in cases where a conflict of interest or bias may be reasonably perceived. Justice Ginsburg did not violate any official code or law, but she certainly put her own judgment into question, and did further damage to the reputation of the Court. But a lot of people jumped to her defense:

Personally I delighted in watching those who rushed to defend her First Amendment rights. Suddenly all thought of ethical obligations mattered not, because it was the exalted Notorious RBG speaking, and whatever she said must be defended. I’m sure part of the defense comes from animus toward the person she criticized too. Of course the same people would have skewered any of the conservative justices had they made the same type of statements about a Democratic candidate, but here they were saying it was her right to say whatever she wanted. In a poll, over 51% voted that it was perfectly fine for Justice Ginsburg to speak out on politics – roughly mirroring the mostly liberal political affiliation of the profession. The double-standard was on display by legal professionals who are supposed to have the rule of law as their first loyalty. What hypocrites! They illustrated in living color why so many are disheartened by the “justice” system.

As delighted as I was to observe this naked partisan display, I was beside myself with mirth when Justice Ginsburg quickly issued a statement acknowledging her major lapse in judgment.

“On reflection, my recent remarks in response to press inquiries were ill-advised and I regret making them. Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office,” Ginsburg said in a statement issued through the Supreme Court’s press office. “In the future I will be more circumspect.”

And how quickly her supporters tried to spin that! “She didn’t take back her opinion on Trump!” they shouted. What they don’t want to admit is how wrong she was to state an opinion at all. Of course judges are going to have opinions, but they are supposed to be above being held hostage to their opinions. That’s why we have made them judges. That’s why they have that exalted position in society where we trust them to make decisions that affect our lives. If judges don’t have the good sense to remain out of the political fray in such a public and overt way, then it is right and proper to question their judgment in other aspects of their duties.

Beyond my own personal satisfaction of watching Justice Ginsburg stepping in it and having to apologize, I am sad for the damage done to the justice system and the Court in particular. Loss of trust in our rule of law is contributing to an increasingly lawless society where special favors and political influence become more powerful everyday. Justice Ginsburg’s faux pas is just a symptom of how powerful people think the rules don’t apply to them, and the support she got before she had to retract her statement shows how many people are willing to go along with the strongman. #Sad.

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Ava Gardner