Ann Althouse, a professor at the (extremely liberal) University of Wisconsin at Madison torches Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in today's NY Times. Her basic point: what's the point of having judges if they won't even try to work within the rule of law. Some excerpts:
So often, we’ve heard complaints about “activist” judges. They’re suspected of deciding what outcome they want, based on their own personal or ideological preferences, and then writing a legalistic, neutral-sounding opinion to cover up what they’ve done. That carefully composed legal opinion makes it somewhat hard for a judge’s critics to convince people . . . that the judge did not decide the case according to an unbiased legal method of analysis.
So perhaps the oddest thing about Judge Taylor’s opinion in the eavesdropping case is that she didn’t bother to come up with the verbiage that normally cushions us from these suspicions. Although the first half of the opinion, dealing with the state secrets doctrine and the first part of the standing doctrine, has the usual detail and structure one expects in a judicial opinion, the remainder of her text dispenses with the formalities.
Immensely difficult matters of First and Fourth Amendment law, separation of powers, and the relationship between the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Authorization for Use of Military Force are disposed of in short sections that jump from assorted quotations of old cases to conclusory assertions of illegality. Orin S. Kerr, a law professor at George Washington, told The Times that the section on the Fourth Amendment is “just a few pages of general ruminations . . . much of it incomplete and some of it simply incorrect.”
At least other judges who have simply whiffed on cases have had the intelligence and the wisdom to at least SEEM like they are applying the law -- see Judge Shira Scheindlin's opinion in the Maurice Clarett v. National Football League case. Judge Taylor didn't even attempt to disguise her political motives, which is a breach of public confidence in her judicial ability. More Althouse:
. . . The public may have become so used to the notion that a judge’s word is what counts that it forgets why this is true. The judges have this constitutional power only because they operate by a judicial method that restricts them to resolving concrete controversies and requires them to interpret the relevant constitutional and statutory texts and to reason within the tradition of the case law.
This system works only if the judges suppress their personal and political willfulness and take on the momentous responsibility to embody the rule of law. They should not reach out for opportunities to make announcements of law, but handle the real cases that have been filed.
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If the words of the written opinion reveal that the judge did not follow the discipline of the judicial process, what sense does it make to take the judge’s word about what the law means over the word of the president? If the judge’s own writing does not support a belief that the rule of law has substance and depth, that law is something apart from political will, the significance of saying the president has gone beyond the limits of the law evaporates.