Very few law students—especially in the Midwest—have an opportunity to hear a lecture from the Chief Justice of the United States. Even fewer law students have an opportunity to pose a question to him during a Q & A session. And even fewer law students have an opportunity to shake his hand and have their picture taken with him. Yesterday, I became one of the fortunate few to have all three of these opportunities, thanks to Chief Justice John Roberts’ visit to Drake University Law School for the 2008 Dwight D. Opperman Lecture in Constitutional Law.
Quite honestly, there is little that I learned about Chief Justice Roberts that I didn’t already know. Having watched a large portion of his confirmation hearings in 2005, I knew he had an exceptional legal mind and was very likable. These expectations were confirmed today. Having taken Constitutional Law, and read some of his judicial opinions, I also knew that he is a judge who seeks to interpret the true meaning of our Constitution, and doesn’t arbitrarily assign meanings to parts of the Constitution that aren’t there. Again, this initial intuition was confirmed today. Finally, as one who has been paying attention to current events and one who is aware that election day is one month and one day away, I know that in order for our nation to continue to have good judges like Chief Justice Roberts on the bench, John McCain must be elected President.
A little history lesson to begin with: the last four Presidents each appointed more than one Supreme Court Justice. Presidents Bush, Bush and Clinton each appointed two (all of whom sit on the current Court) and President Reagan appointed three (two of whom sit on the current court). With Justice John Paul Stevens approaching age 90, there is a great likelihood that the next President will appoint at least one Supreme Court Justice.
On the Supreme Court, the vote of one Justice carries a lot of weight. One vote is the difference between allowing partial-birth abortions and upholding a law banning this gruesome procedure. It is the difference between forcing school children to be bussed an extraordinary distance for the sole purpose of “diversity” and allowing parents to have their children go to the best schools for them, regardless of their race. Finally, one vote is the difference between allowing cities to ban handguns from law-abiding citizens and upholding the second amendment right to keep and bear arms. On a more general level, one Justice may mean the difference between a Court whose decisions are based on the original meaning of the Constitution and a Court whose decisions are based on what the Constitution “should” mean. One vote may mean the difference between a Court whose decisions are based upon the Constitution and its original meaning, and a Court whose decisions are based upon foreign precedent and “contemporary human rights documents.” In short, one vote means a lot.
Another history lesson: John McCain has a track record of supporting good, originalist judges. He voted to confirm Justice Thomas, Chief Justice Roberts, and Justice Alito. Barack Obama voted against the Chief Justice and Justice Alito. Joe Biden voted against all three of the judges. For those of us who want good judges who will base their decisions on what the Constitution says, and not legislate from the bench, John McCain is your man.
By W. Sherman