Sen. Whitehouse Denounces Roberts’ Umpire Theory of Judging

Monday, July 13, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) just denounced Supreme Court Justice John Roberts’ disingenuous umpire theory of judging — his oft-quoted statement that the role of a judge is just to call “balls and strikes” as he sees them — with a harsh critique of what’s turned out to be remarkable “judicial activism” by the conservative majority led by Roberts on the court.

Here’s Whitehouse, in one of his characteristically articulate speeches:

The “umpire” analogy is belied by Chief Justice Roberts, though he cast himself as an “umpire” during his confirmation hearings. Jeffrey Toobin, a well-respected legal commentator, has recently reported that “[i]n every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff.” Some umpire. And is it a coincidence that this pattern, to continue Toobin’s quote, “has served the interests, and reflected the values of the contemporary Republican party”? Some coincidence.

For all the talk of “modesty” and “restraint,” the right wing Justices of the Court have a striking record of ignoring precedent, overturning congressional statutes, limiting constitutional protections, and discovering new constitutional rights: the infamous Ledbetter decision, for instance; the Louisville and Seattle integration cases, for example; the first limitation on Roe v. Wade that outright disregards the woman’s health and safety; and the DC Heller decision, discovering a constitutional right to own guns that the Court had not previously noticed in 220 years. Over and over, news reporting discusses “fundamental changes in the law” wrought by the Roberts Court’s right wing flank. The Roberts Court has not lived up to the promises of modesty or humility made when President Bush nominated Justices Roberts and Alito.

Some “balls and strikes.”

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Comment posted July 13, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

The whole balls and strikes analogy is wrong anyway. If judges are umpires, then they're like the umpires who pull out the rule book when something odd happens and try to figure out which rule that doesn't perfectly fit should be applied.

Comment posted July 13, 2009 @ 5:36 pm

It wasn't the Roberts Court that “found” the right to abortion in the Constitution was it? There's a “right” that would have made the Founding Fathers' heads spin.
The right to own a gun however wasn't hard to find at all. It's right there in the Bill of Rights-Second Amendment soun familiar?

Comment posted July 13, 2009 @ 6:45 pm

Some people don't know the founding fathers very well. Looks like it's not just Roberts and Scalia who can read the laws and still find a way to legislate from the bench to the advantage of their crooked clientele. Bush v Gore 2000 will be a stain on our nation forever.

Comment posted July 13, 2009 @ 7:34 pm

As long as one overlooks “A well regulated Militia…”

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[...] be “very, very cautious” before it overrules precedent.  To be fair, CJ Roberts said similar things when he was in the hotseat, but he wasn’t telling the [...]

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[...] in Daily life, GOP, Government, Law at 10:10 am by LeisureGuy Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse: The “umpire” analogy is belied by Chief Justice Roberts, though he cast himself as an [...]

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