Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Saying philosophy matters, WMC backs judicial candidate Rebecca Bradley who is short on specifics

Scott Manley praises Scalia Bradley, even though she lacks explanations for her judicial philosopy

Scott Manley, VP of Government Relations for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (the state’s largest corporate lobby), penned a glowing endorsement for the upcoming state Supreme Court race set to be held April 5 between Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg and current Justice Rebecca Bradley.

His endorsement couldn’t be clearer: Manley supports the late Antonin Scalia to fill the role.

image from Wisconsin Business Voice
All joking aside, one could seriously be forgiven for coming to that conclusion. In trying to offer support for Rebecca Bradley, seen as the conservative choice for the position, Manley takes great care to explain why he supports Scalia’s judicial beliefs, and why they’d make a good fit for the state’s highest court.

“Even after his untimely death, Justice Scalia continues to remind us through his brilliant writings that the proper role of the courts is not to remake laws or substitute the views of judges for those of lawmakers,” Manley writes. He goes on to explain that Bradley, in his mind, best exemplifies Scalia’s beliefs.

He closes his op-ed by saying, “Judicial philosophy matters.”

Indeed it does. It’s too bad we get so little of it from the candidate Manley supports.

The two candidates’ websites both have sections that lay out their respective judicial philosophies. JoAnne Kloppenburg provides a lengthy explanation of how she adjudicates, with examples of cases she’s written the opinions for and the justifications for why she rules the way she does.

Rebecca Bradley, on the other hand, provides a two-paragraph-based answer to the question of her philosophy. And though her response supplies Manley and other far-right conservatives with the necessary dog-whistles and answers they hope to hear from a judicial candidate, for the rest of the state it creates more questions to ponder over, and reads more like an eighth-grade essay on the question than a reasoned answer from a Supreme Court justice.

Notably, Manley’s column imploring the importance of judicial philosophy is longer than Bradley’s comments on her own judicial philosophy. For something that matters so much to him, Manley is happy to ignore the “short-on-specifics” answer that Bradley provides us with.

The idea of “strict constructionism” that Manley promotes is itself a red herring -- conservatives, even Antonin Scalia, have been more than willing to bend the letter of the law to match their whims. Judicial philosophy matters -- but so does interpretation of the law. Justices should exercise restraint, but when a law is passed that is so flagrantly against the Constitution (the U.S. and Wisconsin's), it is rightly stricken and deemed invalid. That's not judicial activism -- that's just common sense.

Even the founders disagreed on some major aspects of the Constitution -- including James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, the document’s major architects and proponents.

Adhering to partisan-based opinion making on the Supreme Court makes for lousy interpretations. Though liberals favor Kloppenburg more than Bradley, there is no doubt in my mind that JoAnne Kloppenburg (who served for two decades under both Republican and Democratic administrations as an assistant Attorney General) would apply the law fairly to whoever approaches the bench.

You can’t honestly say the same thing about Rebecca Bradley. Her partisanship is clear for everyone to see, and cannot be ignored by the standards that judges and justices of Wisconsin must adhere by.

Manley and other corporate backers of Bradley are happy to ignore these standards, and to prop up their judicial philosophies that advance their own agendas. Heaven help Wisconsin if they succeed.

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