Judge for yourself
U.S. Supreme Court nomination fight reveals shortcomings in our system
By Paul Jackson
Tuesday, August 2, 2005
"I will put competent judges on the bench who will strictly interpret the Constitution and will not legislate or use the bench to write social policy."
— U.S. President George W. Bush
There is a huge battle shaping up in Washington that will dominate newspaper headlines and the airwaves and have average Americans following every thrust.
It's the fight by U.S. President George W. Bush to get his nominee, John G. Roberts Jr., vetted by Republican and Democratic senators alike and his appointment to the Supreme Court of the U.S. confirmed.
I tell my GOP friends nothing like it could ever happen in Canada, where the prime minister of the day handpicks the individual he wants to sit on our Supreme Court with no one — not even a charge of 100 MPs — being able to object in any meaningful way.
Coincidentally, the quote above is precisely the antithesis of what the Liberal hierarchy in our own country expect from our justices — they actually do want them to circumvent Parliament and our elected representatives and legislate from the bench.
It's a mockery.
Just a week ago, Bush met with several top-ranking Democratic senators and pondered their recommendations for a replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Imagine Jean Chretien or Paul Martin asking for input from Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe or New Democrat boss Jack Layton.
Not for a minute, you can't.
But in the U.S., which really is a democracy, Bush would have virtually no chance of getting his nominee confirmed without a hefty number of Democrats on side.
That's even though Roberts served in top positions under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and is regarded by non-partisan groups as having one of the best legal minds and one of the finest legal records in the nation.
OK, OK — with a Republican majority in the Senate, if Bush were bloody-minded enough, and prepared to have the Senate tied up in a filibuster week after week, he could eventually push through his nominee, but that would tear both the Senate and the nation apart.
Suppose Chretien or Martin had to face such a divisive situation and so much potential wrath?
They would have to choose our Supreme Court justices much more carefully and would have to co-operate with Opposition MPs.
We'd surely have better representation on our bench with justices who more clearly reflected the views of mainstream Canadians rather than those of a prime minister or the Liberal backrooms.
Right now, the Democrats are determined to make a stand in the Senate over Roberts, not necessarily because they dislike the man or feel he is unqualified, but because, seven of the sitting justices are now over 65 years of age.
The Democrats fear that if the Republicans win the 2008 presidential election, the GOP may soon have a chance to get rid of the Lib-Left slant the always amorous Bill Clinton — pushed by the hysterical Hillary — tried to give the court.
In the theatre of the absurd in which we Canadians live, last year Justice Minister Irwin Cotler announced with some fanfare a "revolutionary" change in the process for selecting our Supreme Court justices in that a parliamentary committee would be allowed to review the appointments of Lib-Lefters and social activists Rosalie Arbella and Louise Charron.
Yet, guess what?
It was only Cotler himself who appeared before the committee — to speak on their behalf!
No MPs asking probing questions about issues or the personal opinions of either Abella or Charron.
So much for participatory democracy.
Another Grit shell game.
Incidentally, the only Albertan on "our" court is John Major and he does believe in a more open process, and not just the kind of artificial window-dressing Cotler foisted on us.
My friends, follow the Roberts confirmation hearings closely, and ponder how much better our own society would be if we had a similar system of checks and balances in place.
One day we will have to take our nation back from the self-serving oligarchy that now holds us to ransom.
And take partisan politics out of the Supreme Court and give it back to the people.
© Calgary Sun 2005