"No one can know how the experience of the court will affect someone--the detachment from life as lived by the proles, the respect you become used to, the Harvard Law Review clerks from famous families who are only too happy to pick up your dry cleaning and listen to the third recounting of your boring anecdote. Everyone wants you at dinner. You notice that you actually look quite good in black.So, why not have a public debate about a Court nominee's approach to understanding what the Constitution means? Get it all out in the open. Stop worrying about what a nominee might decide about a specific case. Let the Senators and the nominee tell the public what they think the commerce clause means, what public use means, what necessary and proper means. Let the chips fall where they may in the Senate. Perhaps the "We the People" attitude of the Constitution would be better served.
And you become used to the idea that unlike everyone else in the country, you have job security. A lifetime appointment. When people have complete professional security they are more likely in time to show a new conceit. I don't know why this is, but I think it's connected to the fact that they're lucky, and it seems somehow hardwired in human nature that when people are lucky they come to think they deserve it: It's not luck, it's virtue. And since it's virtue my decisions are by their nature virtuous. I think I'll decree that local government, if it judges it necessary, can throw grandma out of the house and turn her tired little neighborhood into a box store that will yield higher tax revenues. Thus Kelo v. New London is born. I decree it.
But I'm thinking of something different. I've noticed that we live in an age in which judges and legal minds seem to hide their own judicial philosophy from themselves. And that might explain why a Harriet Miers has reached the age of 60 and no one seems to know what she thinks.
Having a philosophy is all too big and too dangerous--paper trails, insights inadequately phrased that come back to haunt. Lawyers with ambition seem to have become adept at hiding their essential intellectual nature from themselves. They break the law down into tiny chewable pieces and endlessly masticate them. They break it down into small manageable bits, avoiding the larger abstractions. It's one of the reasons they're so boring.
In a highly politicized climate it's not really convenient for lawyers to know their deepest beliefs and convictions. Robert Bork, serious thinker and mature concluder, became bork, living verb. Or rather living past-tense verb.
Only reluctantly and only with time do lawyers now develop a philosophy. They get on the court, and reveal it to us day by day. And reveal it, one senses, to themselves."
Friday, October 07, 2005