Legal Ethics and Reform

About John Roberts Remember - “If its Too Good to Be True, It Probably Isn’t True!”

The appointment of John Roberts to be Chief Justice has been greeted by many as wonderful. He is everything a traditionalist might want: 1) he is a lawyer’s lawyer, 2) he is a lifelong student of the law, 3) he has a judicial temperament, 4) he is conservative but not doctrinaire, 5) he has a degree of youth so he can give the job long service, 5) he has spent many years in and around the Supreme Court as both a clerk and advocate, and 6) he is a practicing Catholic and happily married. All sounds great.

However, he has some underlying weaknesses that could prove problematic: 1) For the last 32 years Roberts has lived in the Boston-New York-Washington corridor, all great cities but all possessed of a certain intellectual disdain toward the rest of America, 2) For the last 29 years his associations have been almost exclusively with lawyers, even his wife is a lawyer. Legal training itself has a narrowing influence on one’s thinking, but when that is augmented by excessive association with other lawyers, the compounding effect can be stultifying. 3) For the last 25 years Roberts has lived in the Washington DC area, where average annual incomes are the highest in the land and where the egos come super-sized as well. The associations and experiences one enjoys (or endures) in the nation’s Capital are hardly those that make for full understanding of the texture and variety of life across this “continental sized” country, and 4) Roberts has been so specialized in the law that he doesn’t deal with or work for normal people, rather he meets with the lawyers of those normal clients who are involved in high level appeals.

Roberts is a man comfortable with legal ideas and Washington's power. Will he be comfortable as the outlying yokels (i.e. normal Americans) object more intensely to Washington’s high handed mistreatment of their families, religions, schools, institutions, culture, jobs, communities, National Guard, privacy, safety, and state governments. The pressures from outside of Washington are likely to be intense as these burdens (e.g. Federal budget deficits, job outsourcing, Federal micromanagement, American aggressiveness abroad, and the U.S. trade deficits) overwhelm people. The people will want to loosen (or break) many of the ties that bind them to Washington and by extension to the world beyond. But Amending the Constitution can't begin in state capitals, and ultimately the real meaning of any Amendment is in the hands of the Supreme Court. Since the political branches in Washington are unlikely to voluntarily cede power to the "yokels", it will fall to the Supreme Court to revitalize the 9th, 10th, and 11th Amendments. Violent revolution could materialize if the Supreme Court doesn't sense that power will have to flow back to the states and the people and away from the "center".

The creative, intuitive ability of John Roberts has been formed in the artificial political climate of Washington. He is unlikely to posses the necessary flexibility for what is unfortunately coming. Perhaps his first act at the Supreme Court might be to run a little study group with his fellow Justices (1) on how the Cantons of Switzerland relate to national government in Bern or (2) on why the Catholic concept of sudsidiarity is so important. ........ (prepared by Hugh Murray 9/10/2005)

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