Senator More Worried About “Senate Activism” Than Judicial Activism

When Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was helping lead the effort to impeach then-President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s, the senator established himself as one of the most conservative members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Today, Graham is still sticking to his guns when it comes to political issues, but his views on judicial appointments are not what most people might expect unless they understand that judges are not supposed to be politicians. 

During his keynote speech at the American Bar Association Annual Meeting in Chicago, Graham told attendees that he is “worried” about confirmations turning into “political events,” and he thinks the process should involve only one pertinent inquiry: “Are you qualified?”

Graham’s exasperation with the process of confirming federal judges can be traced to the dearth of confirmations since President Barack Obama took office in 2008. Although the Obama administration has kept pace with the prior Bush and Clinton administrations in nominations submitted for judges on federal appeals courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, the number of district judge nominations has fallen dramatically. Some argue that President Obama’s focus on health care reform hampered his work on appointments, while others believe that staunch Republican opposition to appointees has made the President’s work even harder.

Regardless of what side of the political fence anyone is standing, the fact remains that our system of justice relies on a solid base of qualified judges. We should all be worried when conservatives such as Lindsey Graham are willing to step forward and say about the opposing party’s Presidential appointments: “I’m not worried about judicial activism. I’m worried about Senate activism.”


Posted: 9/18/2012 12:00:00 AM by Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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