By Baxter Black: QCS columnist
The latest bone thrown to the voracious mad dogs of the media, including this columnist, is the all-important, job-eternal Supreme Court nomination.
The question that has the least influence on confirmation, yet receives the most polarized press coverage is this: “Is the nominee qualified to be a Supreme Court judge?”
Using my cowboy logic I’m going to dive beneath the poorly disguised whirlpools of pontificating spin and examine the issue that most begs addressing: Why do we limit our choices to lawyers?
I have discussed this with judges and lawyers, as well as cowboys and antelope. “They must know the law to interpret it,” is the logical reason given by the legal community. However, I question if wisdom is necessarily bestowed to a person with a law degree, or any degree for that matter. It is my understanding that the Supreme Court’s job is to protect and interpret the Constitution. In my encyclopedia, the Constitution — including the amendments — is only seven pages long and the only big word is “enumeration.”
I agree there is some room for interpretation but, although some of the designers were lawyers, there were enough gentiles present to prevent deliberate obfuscation, unlike most legal documents today that are written to invite misinterpretation and litigation.
Which leads me to a touchy subject. Since virtually no laws are passed today that infringe on the privileges and earning power of lawyers, appointing lawyers on the Supreme Court is actually a conflict of interest. It would be like insisting that the military operate independently of civilian leadership. Or allowing Pope Benedict to referee a tag team match between Notre Dame and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir!
There is a terrible tendency among the verbose to ignore or disdain any declaration as simple as “Congress shall pass no law… ” and “The president shall have the power to…” and “The right of the people shall not be infringed.”
In fact, lawyers may be overqualified to interpret documents as clear and precise as the U.S. Constitution. So, it is only reasonable to allow them to practice their verbal and linguistic swordplay with each other in the lower courts where common sense and justice are often sacrificed on the altar of loopholes.
However, on the Supreme Court where Solomon reigns we need minds who can read the Constitution, not read things into it.
To change our vision we must broaden our scope and look beyond preconceived limitations because most cases that reach the Supreme Court do not require legal interpretation, they require moral judgment: Abortion rights, eminent domain, detaining terrorists, affirmative action or euthanasia.
If asked, my first nominee would be high school teacher, coach, father, and good citizen Dan Barrera, from my hometown. He has wisdom, compassion and integrity equal to most people I’ve seen wearing robes and he can see beyond the courtroom. I think Dan’s the kind of person the founding fathers meant when they wrote “We, the people…”