Let’s start our day with a prayer for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. God who is merciful and powerful, bless and keep Ruth Bader Ginsburg strong and healthy for the sake of our nation. Amen.
Why the urgency for the protection of just one justice out of nine? Many of us are concerned about the partiality of Supreme Court judges recently appointed to serve. One legal principle at issue is stare decisis – upholding earlier decisions; like Roe v. Wade. Another issue is how we interpret the two hundred year old Bill of Rights. Here’s an example; is a political contribution protected speech? These issues challenge our understanding of what it means to uphold the law. Uncertainty undermines our democracy.
Americans who advocate for civil rights and liberal values, are fearful of a Supreme Court chock full of Trump appointees. For us, Ginsberg stands between the recidivists and an America that devalues individual rights.
Beyond my political yearnings, I expect judges to be arbitrators not arbitrary, to be cold sober and not cold hearted. As a lawyer of 37 years and a participant in judicial processes, I have read far too many subjective rulings and I have seen retributive behavior from judges. In a democratic nation we should not fear that justices of the Supreme Court will be motivated by a political philosophy or personal bias. Accordingly, supporting the integrity of our judiciary requires judges devoted to process and impartiality.
The Jewish tradition directs justice, justice we must pursue. The word “justice” is repeated to remind us that the pursuit of justice by itself is subject to imprecision and bias. Therefore, the judicial system itself must advance justice in all its practices.
Torah sets out a system by which we select judges. “You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the LORD your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice.” Deut. 16:18. As Moses presents this in a speech to the people, the instruction is directed to the entire people. Collectively, we are to appoint judges. But in the American system, the executive branch appoints federal judges; a branch that is now occupied by a usurper, a solipsistic con man. Given the myriad lifetime appointments the President has made to the judiciary, his venal legacy will last long beyond his term of office.
Perhaps it is time to reconsider how we select Federal Court judges. Torah suggests electing judges as a superior choice. Electing judges might help to keep Judges accountable for their decisions. On the other hand, the corruption in our electoral systems makes it difficult to guarantee that any elected judge is appropriate to the office and answerable for their determinations. So the election on which we must focus is the upcoming Presidential election.
We must work for the election of a President who will make judicial appointments based upon merit and not political proclivities. Let’s remind presidential candidates of the obligation to advance a just justice. The President is representative of all Americans especially when making appointments to Federal Courts.
Until January 2021, God, please take care of RBG!
Rabbi Evan Krame