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Judicial Philosophy

Judicial Philosophy

Kerby Anderson



            The next president will no doubt nominate two or three Supreme Court justices and hundreds and hundreds of appointments to the federal bench. So understanding a candidate's judicial philosophy will be important. The two presumptive nominees represent two very different judicial philosophies and have two different voting records in Congress concerning judicial appointments.


            Senator McCain wants to appoint judges that have a strict constructionist view of the Constitution. His website says: "When applying the law, the role of judges is not to impose their own view as to the best policy choices for society but to faithfully and accurately determine the policy choices already made by the people and embodied in the law." He also says: "The judicial role is necessarily limited and one that requires restraint and humility."


            Senator Obama says that he wants to appoint judges who have "empathy." In one of his speeches he said, "we need someone who's got the heart, the empathy" to understand social circumstances. "The empathy to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that's the criteria by which I'm going to be selecting my judges."


            Words are one thing, and voting records are another. Senator McCain supported Supreme Court nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito. He voted to confirm both of these men and at the time called them "strict constructionists."


            Senator Obama voted against both men. While he acknowledged their academic and legal qualifications, he said at the time that other issues should be considered. He said: "I've seen an extraordinarily consistent attitude on the part of Judge Alito that does not uphold the traditional role of the Supreme Court as a bastion of equality and justice for United States citizens."


            This year the two candidates have two very different views of judicial interpretation and it is reflected in their votes. I'm Kerby Anderson, and that's my point of view.