I want to address a letter by Mr. Christopher Acker, “Let the Constitution rule,” (published July 7) in which he addressed the wording of that document’s provision for appointing and confirming Supreme Court justices. In his view of how this process should work, he and I are in almost complete agreement, and that includes his observations that justices are not supposed to be Republican or Democrat or to allow themselves to be swayed by special interest groups. As Mr. Acker stated, “The only litmus test for a justice should be ‘can he or she decide cases based on what the Constitution says,’ nothing more.”
He did mention one other criterion that guides SCOTUS decisions: the precedents of settled law. In all of this, Mr. Acker is spot on. However, I feel compelled to confess my confusion as to why he believes he needs to attack groups (Democratic politicians, paid-for protesters, the media, Hollywood personalities) who express support for or against any nominee the President picks. Their right to state their positions is also part of our Constitution. It’s called the First Amendment, and under it, interactions with elected representatives is unconditionally guaranteed. In point of fact, it is pretty much imperative that such exchanges be regularly employed by our citizenry to insure the proper working of our republic.
I admire Mr. Acker’s belief that SCOTUS justices should be impartial, and, it may be true that mostly they are. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t bring personal biases to their work. If this were not true, the Senate could have moved sooner to confirm an Obama pick instead of holding a seat open for a year in hopes that a shift in political power would give their supporters a chance to affect the overall direction of the court’s judicial philosophies.
And now the nation faces a potential problem that I would think Mr. Acker would find as troubling as I do. President Trump limited his choices to lists of candidates compiled by two very politically conservative groups, having promised to do so during his campaign, and those groups have applied their own litmus tests of conservative principles to those they have recommended. In addition, questions concerning presidential powers and immunities are likely to come before the court during Mr. Trump’s term of office. Under these circumstances, I think it would be appropriate not only for the Senate to thoroughly question a potential justice’s views relating to these issues, but to listen carefully to the concerns of their constituents who want reassurances that no person, regardless of their office, be considered above the law.
For this reason alone, I find it surprising that Mr. Acker would imply that people who weigh in on the possible outcomes of future court decisions should not be heard. As he himself acknowledges, “The unvarnished truth is this, no decision by the Supreme Court is going to please every citizen.” Mr. Acker is absolutely right. I only wish he wouldn’t assume that others who disagree with him politically love this country any less than he does. I would hope that whichever side of a case we might find ourselves on, we would still want to hear the words of those who disagree with us. We need to do this as a nation, and we should do so without complaining that those other voices are too unpleasant to be heard.