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Tuesday, March 04, 2003
On Justice and Judges

I ran across an excellent article today on the American Enterprise Institute's website excerpting comments by Justice Thomas made upon his receipt of the Francis Boyer Award for individuals who have made exceptional practical or scholarly contributions to improved government policy and social welfare. The award was established in 1977 by SmithKline Beecham in memory of Francis Boyer, a former chief executive of SmithKline and a distinguished business leader for many years. Justice Thomas is distinguished for his jurisprudence regarding federalism, civil rights, criminal justice, and business regulation.

Good quotes:

"If we are to be a nation of laws and not of men, judges must be impartial referees who defend constitutional principles from attempts by particular interests (or even the people as a whole) to overwhelm them in the name of expediency.When deciding cases, a judge’s race, sex, and religion are not relevant. A judge must push these factors to one side in order to render a fair, reasoned judgment on the meaning of the law and must attempt to keep at bay those passions, interests, and emotions that beset every frail human being. A judge is not a legislator, for whom it is entirely appropriate to consider personal and group interests. The ideal of justice is to be blind to such things."

"A judge who strictly adheres to the rules of impartiality and judicial restraint is likely to reach sound conclusions. But as I have said, reaching the correct decision is only half the battle. Having the courage of your convictions can be the harder part."

"We best arrive at truth through a process of honest and vigorous debate. Arguments should not sneak around in disguise, as if dissent were somehow sinister. One should not cowed by criticism. Those who engage in debates of consequence and who challenge accepted wisdom should expect to be treated badly. Even if one has a valid position and is intellectually honest, he has to anticipate nasty responses aimed at the messenger rather than the argument. Those responses aim to limit the range of the debate, the number of messengers, and the size of the audience. The objective is to pressure dissenters to sanitize their message."