31 July 2003

The law is self-policing. Riiiiiiight. The really sad thing is that one of the most recent efforts by outsiders to "police" the judiciary is worse than the conduct it was attacking.

Last week, I remarked in passing on problems in the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Today, the court issued an opinion on the controversy in question. In some really amazing spin doctoring, Judicial Watch—a purported public-interest group that purports to be a "watchdog" for the judiciary—continued its hysterical shrieking in a way that, unfortunately, gives away its complete lack of objectivity. The following phrase just leaped out at me:

In the death penalty case (In re Byrd Jr., [sic] 269 F.3d 578 (6th Cir. 2002)), Chief Judge Martin was found to have violated the rules when he issued a ruling without consulting his fellow judges and when he withheld an important pleading from them. The effect of the rules violations was to further delay the execution of a convicted murderer.

(Emphasis added.) Without defending Judge Martin's conduct, I think this little passage demonstrates Judicial Watch's prejudices. Based not just on this instance, but on other involvement by Judicial Watch, I somehow doubt that a judge whose conduct unduly hastened an execution would get the same treatment. I say that living in a state that has set more convicted murderers free as substantively innocent than it has executed since 1991.

Ironically, this kind of nonsense actually undermines efforts to force greater judicial accountability. If the loudest sniping at the judiciary comes from one clearly defined political segment and targets its "natural enemy" only, it will drown out other accusations and undermine their credibility. People will assume that the attack on the judge(s) is politically motivated, not based on objective serious misconduct.

Of course, this also fits into the copyright-term debate. But let's not go there this afternoon.