January 9, 2009

The Framers' occasional wisdom

Bill Christofferson observes that Wisconsin Supreme Court hopeful Randy R. Koschnick's spending a weekend at a gun show in La Crosse "speaks volumes about the candidate and his candidacy."

I suppose it does, although it may say even more about the baseline idea of electing Supreme Court justices in the first place. Political candidates are naturally going to gravitate toward where their perceived constituency is.

But there's something unseemly about campaigning for this particular office. While the elections are in theory (and by law) "nonpartisan," that notion is by now pretty much pure fiction. The court's latest member, Michael Gableman, was (is?) as partisan as they come.

If anything could have indelibly forged a hardened cynic from a bright-eyed idealist, it was last year's State Supreme Court election.

The present aspirant shows every sign of waging a likeminded political campaign, adorning himself as he has with the ham-handed Republican phraseology "strict constructionist" and so forth.

At his website, Judge Koschnick complains that a 2005 decision of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, State v. Knapp, "expanded the rights of criminal defendants in these types of cases beyond what is required by the United States Supreme Court and the United States Constitution" (without any explanation as to why this is such an objectionable thing, incidentally — it clearly affords an otherwise unobjectionable rhetorical opportunity to scare up the "criminals").

Presumably we won't be hearing similar protestations from the same quarters related to electing Supreme Court justices, who under the federal constitutional regime are appointed through a nomination and approval process which, although far from perfect itself, does seem to guarantee a certain modicum of quality control.

I don't believe that the Framers even considered the popular election of Supreme Court justices. After all, they didn't even trust the mob to populate the Senate. It got to vote for the House yahoos, that's it.

Apparently deference to the Framers of the U.S. Constitution is often entirely a matter of convenience, desirable when it suits a particular political agenda but otherwise, not. As for myself, it isn't that I don't trust the people to their votes, it's that I don't trust the candidates.

Pictured: the patrician, elitist, foreign-born Alexander Hamilton.


Brett said...

* See also Posner's comment on Heller and the Second Amendment.

illusory tenant said...

This one?

Anonymous said...

"I don't trust the candidates"

I hope that includes the incumbent.

I prefer more openness when it comes to the Courts and elections because I think the attempt to maintain appearance has swept many injustices under the rug. There should be transparency of all government and candidates running for office.