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Dumb-ass question of the day



(Explanation of the title.) Thanks to Heather Mac Donald for pointing out this gem of a self-parody from Sen. Kohl:

Judge, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we all saw that those who suffered the most were those who had not been able to take advantage of the great opportunities that our great country has to offer. As we found out, those without employment opportunities and educational opportunities simply did not have the means to escape the storm and the flooding.

As you seek to become the head of the judicial branch, as you seek the position of chief justice of the United States of America, what role would you play in making right the wrongs revealed by Katrina? And what role do you and the judicial branch play in making sure that we as a nation keep on moving forward toward providing equal opportunity to all Americans?

Judge Roberts answers with a paean to equal justice under the law and the importance of upholding the rule of law. Not good enough for Kohl, who follows up:

In spite of all of our laws and all of our rules, we still saw what happened down in New Orleans. And the people who were left behind were people who had not had educational or employment opportunities.

And the question I asked was whether you, as a person who aspires to be the chief justice of the United States, sees a particular role other than continuing the role that you observe we are following now, particular role for improving our ability to respond to the needs of those people who live under those circumstances?

What does Kohl think the Supreme Court is supposed to do—charter a helicopter for rescues? Create a constitutional right out of whole cloth to one-SUV-per-family? Roberts responded more diplomatically:

Well, the courts are, of course, passive institutions. We hear cases that are brought before us. We don't go out and bring cases. We don't have the constitutional authority to execute the law. We don't have the constitutional authority to make the law.

Our obligation is to decide the cases that are presented. Now I'm confident, just in the nature of things, that there will be cases presented arising out of that horrible disaster, of all sorts. And many of those will be federal cases, I'm sure. Others will be in the state courts.

And again, the obligation of the federal judiciary and the state judiciary is to make sure they provide a place where people can have their claims, their litigation decided fairly and efficiently, according to the rule of law.

That's the appropriate role for the judicial branch.

 

 


Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy
rmangual@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.