Robert Bork is quoted as saying about Supreme Court nominees that they “are treated like political candidates” meaning that there is an examination not just into their credentials but into their ideology and views on controversial issues. This, Bork commented, sets out “to erode public confidence in the impartiality of the courts, and to endanger the independence of the judiciary”
Fair enough, however, if one looks at how court cases are decided the ideology and views of the justices almost always dictate their outcome. The more conservative or liberal the more they side with a conservative or liberal view on the issue.
I came across these charts on a Blog called “New York Court Watcher” http://www.newyorkcourtwatcher.com while trying to support my hypothesis that Bork is wrong; ideology and views do matter.
If there were no liberal or conservative bias with the justices, their voting would be evenly distributed, that is, sometimes they would side with and sometimes they would side against the Courts decision. Additionally, how they vote would be independent from how any other Justice votes – there would be a randomness which would result in a Justice's decisions being about 50% conservative and 50% liberal. It is highly unlikely, in my opinion, that two people could independently have the same voting record on a wide variety of different topics without also having the same view or ideology leanings towards that topic.
What is interesting is that the court's decisions are almost evenly distributed between siding with a liberal view and a conservative view for the cases heard. Does this make my argument moot? No, my argument is Bork's contention that ideology and views should not inter into the discussion. At the Supreme Court level, the buck stops with them. We are asking them to decide on an issue so what goes into this decision is and always will be a mixture of perception, goals, attitude, past experience, and preference, not just the weight of the argument at hand.
In looking at the graphs, one can easily see that the label of “conservative” or “liberal” placed on a Justice is a pretty good indicator of how they will vote. It is unfortunate that it has come down to this, but we only have ourselves to blame. We as a society elevate people to high positions not based on their wisdom but instead based on what they will do to benefit our side. To counter a liberal leaning we place a conservative and when the pendulum swings to the right we place a liberal. We as a polarized society have made ideology and views the litmus test for a Justice. Credentials do not matter it is whether you will deliver the opinions my side wants delivered. There is no call for wisdom, understanding, logic....only calls for a guy or gal who will keep or change the status quo.
Independent thinking is like diversity, everyone says they are for it till it wants to move into their neighborhood.