Economic Justice and the Supreme Court
Why do I say this?
Next, here is a quote on a similar topic (from an ABC News bio) attributed to Judge Sotomayor:
She has spoken often of how her early poverty and Hispanic heritage have shaped her views. “I have spent my years … in my various professional jobs not feeling completely a part of any of the worlds I inhabit,” she said in a November 2002 interview with The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education. “We educated, privileged lawyers have a professional and moral duty to represent the underrepresented in our society, to ensure that justice exists for all, both legal and economic justice.”
Third, here is a brief clip of Judge Sotomayor at a panel discussion in 2005, openly acknowledging the so-called policy-making role of an appellate judge:
She thinks it’s funny to sort of not talk about the fact that she makes policy as a judge. I for one am not laughing.
Putting all of this together, what does it mean? I suppose that depends on how you understand the concept of “economic justice.”
To many (and that probably includes President Obama), economic justice inherently includes re-distributing wealth. The President has already moved well along this path. This is evidenced by: (a) numerous refundable federal income tax credits incorporated in his various stimulus packages; and (b) sending more taxpayer dollars (stimulus payments) to the states that themselves are wealth re-distributors (e.g., California). There will be more of this as taxes are necessarily increased down the road. Fewer voters will pay taxes in the Obama world because the haves will be told to surrender more of their wealth to the have-nots. The estate tax will be another target of the “economic justice” political crowd.
Legislating wealth re-distribution is the prerogative of the party in power. I don’t like it but that’s the way the political game is played. But I strongly object when the judiciary joins in.
I have no problem with judges and juror bringing their life experiences into the court room, particularly when trying to separate truth from fiction among the evidence presented.
I do have a problem with judges injecting their personal views of who should have money – and how much money they should have – into their decision-making process.
To me, “economic justice” in the judicial and political systems must be focused on equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. As one example, this means putting an end to actual race, age or gender wage discrimination in the workplace.
But notice my use of the word “actual.” There are those who believe that any disparity in economic outcome is an evil that must be rooted out, even if it is not caused by actual discrimination or mistreatment. These folks don’t think there should be winners and losers in our economic system. They want the winnings shared with the losers. People are entitled to have this view, even judges. But when the judges head into work, they must leave that personal view of “economic justice” at home.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor will be confirmed, unless the vetting process reveals some deep secret or yet another nominee tax problem. She will probably lay low for a while, until she feels comfortable. But then, observe carefully as her true views of “economic justice” emerge. Her battles with Justice Roberts could be fun to watch.
What are your thoughts on the use of our legal system to implement “economic justice” in the U.S.?