When discussing what he is looking for in a Supreme Court nominee Obama said, “Now, the process of selecting someone to replace Justice Souter is among my most serious responsibilities as President. So I will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity. I will seek someone who understands that justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book. It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives — whether they can make a living and care for their families; whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation.”
It is the next part that set Hatch off, “I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people’s hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving as just decisions and outcomes. I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role. I will seek somebody who shares my respect for constitutional values on which this nation was founded, and who brings a thoughtful understanding of how to apply them in our time.”
Hatch claimed that this is liberal activist code, “Well, it’s a matter of great concern. If he’s saying that he wants to pick people who will take sides — he’s also said that a judge has to be a person of empathy. What does that mean? Usually that’s a code word for an activist judge. But he also said that he’s going to select judges on the basis of their personal politics, their personal feelings, their personal preferences. Now, you know, those are all code words for an activist judge, who is going to, you know, be partisan on the bench.”
Did you see where Obama said in the quote above that he is going to select a justice based on their personal politics and feelings? I didn’t. Hatch’s not wanting of a partisan judge on the bench is hysterical when you remember that he has long been a vocal supporter of Antonin Scalia, who is the most partisan member of the court. What Hatch meant to say was that he doesn’t want a liberal activist on the bench. Conservative activists are fine with him.
Although a president can never know how a justice will rule once they are seated, I expect Obama to pick someone who is in his own ideological image. He will probably choose a left leaning judge, who has a practical way of looking at the Constitution. Obama may get to fill 2-4 more vacancies yet, so like any president he is going to try to remake the Court. This first appointment is likely the beginning of the end of the conservative Supreme Court era.
No one needs to look for secret code about that. It is obvious that the Supreme Court is going to take a left hand turn. Frankly the country has taken a move to the left, and Court usually ends up reflected the political attitude of its time, so I don’t think that there is any secrecy or code here. The Supreme Court will move to the left on issues like unionization and discrimination. This move is not only justified, but long overdue.