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McCain Opposes Activist Judges, Unless They’re Conservative

By Ian Millhiser  

"McCain Opposes Activist Judges, Unless They’re Conservative"

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johnmccainOne day after he warned that Republicans have a “very, very deep hole that we’ve got to come out of” with Latino voters, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announced that he would oppose the first Latina nominated to the nation’s highest court. Moreover, in his statement opposing Judge Sonia Sotomayor, McCain misrepresents his own record on judges:

Again and again, Judge Sotomayor seeks to amend the law to fit the circumstances of the case, thereby substituting herself in the role of a legislator. … To protect the equal, but separate roles of all three branches of government, I cannot support activist judges that seek to legislate from the bench. I have not supported such nominees in the past, and I cannot support such a nominee to the highest court in the land.

Despite his claim that he has never supported a judge who “seeks to amend the law to fit the circumstances of the case,” McCain voted in favor of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito; and he described both Roberts and Alito as “model judges” during the 2008 campaign.  A few of these three justices’ greatest hits include:

  • Repealing the Twentieth Century: In three opinions that read like a tea-bagger’s wet dream, Justice Thomas would have restricted Congress’ power to enact economic regulation to a point unheard of since the Great Depression.  A short list of laws that would simply cease to exist in Clarence Thomas’s America includes “the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the sick leave portions of the Family and Medical Leave, the Freedom of Access to Clinics Act, as well as minimum wage and maximum hour laws.”
  • Selling Justice To The Highest Bidder: Roberts, Thomas and Alito all joined dissents arguing that a West Virginia coal magnate could literally buy a judge for $3 million to overturn a verdict against his company.
  • Corporate Immunity From the Law: Joined by Roberts, Alito wrote a dissent arguing that drug companies have almost-total immunity from the law when one of their dangerous products caused a former professional musician to lose her arm and her ability to play music.  Roberts, Thomas and Alito also joined a majority opinion giving sweeping immunity to the makers of dangerous medical devices.
  • Massive Resistance: All three justices joined a radical opinion which not only held that it is unconstitutional for school boards to desegregate public schools, but which audaciously cited Brown v. Board of Education for this proposition.
  • This Election Brought to You By Wal-Mart: Perhaps most ironic of all, all three of McCain’s justices are poised to declare McCain’s signature legislative accomplishment, campaign finance reform, unconstitutional.

As a Yale Law School study published before Roberts and Alito joined the Supreme Court determined, Justice Thomas is the one justice who is most likely to vote to invalidate an Act of Congress — doing so a massive 65.63% of the time. The Court’s two Clinton appointees, Justices Ginsburg and Breyer, are the least likely to second-guess Congress.  So McCain has no problem with judges who “substitute [them]self in the role of a legislator;” he’s just upset that Sotomayor won’t push the same right-wing agenda as his favorite justices.

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