I'm from Missouri

This site is named for the famous statement of US Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver from Missouri : "I`m from Missouri -- you'll have to show me." This site is dedicated to skepticism of official dogma in all subjects. Just-so stories are not accepted here. This is a site where controversial subjects such as evolution theory and the Holocaust may be freely debated.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

My biggest motivation for creating my own blogs was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and various other Internet forums. Censorship will be avoided in my blogs -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no commenter registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged. My non-response to a particular comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

What is an "activist judge"?

A New York Times article describes an attempt to develop an "objective" standard for numerically ranking Supreme Court justices on a scale of activism. Justices are ranked on this scale according to how many times they have (1) voted to overturn a federal or state law and (2) voted to overturn one of the court's own precedents:

Lori Ringhand, a professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law, examined the voting records of the Supreme Court justices from 1994 to 2005. Because judicial activism is a vague concept, she applied a reasonable, objective standard. In the study, which is forthcoming in Constitutional Commentary, justices were considered to have voted in an activist way when they voted to overturn a federal or state law, or one of the court’s own precedents.

As for the first issue, voting to overturn a law: if a law is blatantly unconstitutional, is it virtuous to vote against overturning it?

As for voting to overturn one of the court's own precedents, is that necessarily bad? I think that few people today would argue that it was wrong for the Supreme Court to overturn the "separate but equal" segregationist doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson. And what if the precedential case and the new case are only partly similar -- then the decision of whether or not a justice voted to overturn precedent would be arbitrary. Also, in some judicial decisions, the justices might uphold one precedent and overturn another.

Judge John E. "I am not an activist judge" Jones III said, "People term 'activist judges' judges they don't agree with." Ed "It's My Way or the Highway" Brayton has been saying the same thing. Brayton absurdly argues that everyone who uses the term "activist judge" has no coherent definition for it and uses it inconsistently, and that therefore the only possible meaning of the term is that the person using the term does not agree with the judge:

. . . .the phrase "judicial activism" means whatever the person using it wants it to mean at any given time. The ADF [Alliance Defense Fund] uses it in many different ways, some of which apply perfectly to cases they claim to support and not to cases they deny. They simply have nothing approaching a coherent definition. All it means, as I've been saying for years now, is "I don't like that ruling." The actual use of the phrase is utterly incoherent . . . .

There is a problem that people do not agree on what the terms "activist judge" and "judicial activism" mean. I see no reason why "judicial activism" should be defined as being different from any other kind of "activism," a term that the Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines as a "doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue." So to me, "judicial activism" is any arbitrary, capricious, or overreaching judicial ruling or philosophy that is intended for supporting one side of a controversial issue. Most of Judge Jones' statements and actions that I have criticized in this blog eminently qualify as "judicial activism" under this definition.

Wikipedia gives the following definitions of "judicial activism":

According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law, judicial activism is "the practice in the judiciary of protecting or expanding individual rights through decisions that depart from established precedent or are independent of or in opposition to supposed constitutional or legislative intent". According to Black's Law Dictionary, judicial activism is "a philosophy of judicial decision-making whereby judges allow their personal views about public policy, among other factors, to guide their decisions, usu. with the suggestion that adherents of this philosophy tend to find constitutional violations and are willing to ignore precedent." Different legal scholars and judges may have different definitions of judicial activism.

Since Wikipedia's above definitions from two authoritative sources are a little narrow for my tastes, maybe I should not use the terms "judicial activism" and "activist judge" at all.

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Voice In The Wilderness said...

You have shown in previous posts your tendency to try to redefine words. In this case you have shown that by any authoritative definition, Judge Jones is not an activist judge.

Admitting your prior mistakes is probably a step towards sanity. Congratulations.

Sunday, September 17, 2006 8:18:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Voice In The Wilderness said --
>>>>> You have shown in previous posts your tendency to try to redefine words. In this case you have shown that by any authoritative definition, Judge Jones is not an activist judge. <<<<<<

What do you mean, "by any authoritative definition"? I gave only two supposedly "authoritative definitions" of judicial activism. Actually, many authorities assert that there is no authoritative definition of "judicial activism" because there have been so many different usages of the term that basically it means whatever the user wants it to mean, even meaning -- according to Judge Jones and Ed Brayton -- that the user merely disagrees with a decision. According to my own definition of the term, Judge Jones is the March of Slimes poster boy for judicial activism.

VIW, you are just a big bag of hot air. You just make empty assertions with no facts or arguments to back them up.

BTW, VIW, I finally figured out why I am so much more knowledgeable about the law than my critics: because I LOST a lot of my lawsuits. I learned a lot by choosing weak cases and pursuing them as far as the US Supreme Court. I made two appeals to the US Supreme Court. Whereas the attorneys gave up on attacking the California smog impact fee in federal court and switched to state court, I pursued the issue in federal court. You don't learn anything about the law by filing a suit in forma pauperis and submitting your complaint on bathroom paper.

Sunday, September 17, 2006 6:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Voice In The Wilderness said...

> What do you mean, "by any authoritative definition"? <

Your ability to read, already questionable, has shown a considerable degradation in recent days.

> I gave only two supposedly "authoritative definitions" of judicial activism. <

The world goes on outside of what you put into your posts.

> Actually, many authorities assert that there is no authoritative definition of "judicial activism" <

Which authorities?

> According to my own definition of the term <

Your own definitions are meaningless. You have shown a tendency to try to redefine language. It is the work of a madman (as to be expected from you).

Larry(?), you are just a big bag of hot air. You just make empty assertions with no facts or arguments to back them up.

> BTW, VIW, I finally figured out why I am so much more knowledgeable about the law than my critics: because I LOST a lot of my lawsuits. <

I see. Your unbroken record of failure shows your brilliance. Let me clue you in on this Fake Larry(?). Your belief that you have any more knowledge of law than the average zoo inmate is purely delusional.

> I learned a lot by choosing weak cases and pursuing them as far as the US Supreme Court. <

They were rejected by every court up to the US Supreme Court, where they were ignored.

> You don't learn anything about the law by filing a suit in forma pauperis and submitting your complaint on bathroom paper. <

So you used different paper? You should certainly be elegible to file forma pauperis as you have had no income other than donations from your aged parents for many years.

I have been wondering now that your poverty has been brought up, you are almost old enough to collect Social Security. Have you worked enough in your life to collect any?

Monday, September 18, 2006 4:21:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

VIW said --

>>>>>> I gave only two supposedly "authoritative definitions" of judicial activism. <

The world goes on outside of what you put into your posts. <<<<<<

That is exactly what I meant, you stupid, fatheaded birdbrain. Did I say that these were the only authoritative definitions in the world?

You just make mostly stupid comments and expect me to respond to all of them. I am just going to put you on IGNORE.

Monday, September 18, 2006 6:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Voice In The Wilderness said...

> That is exactly what I meant, you stupid, fatheaded birdbrain. <

Temper, temper. You always get this way when you are losing the argument. Of course you nearly always lose the arguments.

> You just make mostly stupid comments and expect me to respond to all of them. <

You rarely respond to any of them as you are incapable of doing so. Usually you just try to change the subject.

> I am just going to put you on IGNORE. <

I don't care if you respond to my comments. They are directed at the sane.

Monday, September 18, 2006 11:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Voice In The Urbanness said...

Congratulations, VIW. It looks like you have Larry(?) treed again.

What happened to the "Lunatic of the Month" contest? Larry(?) has been providing a lot of good material. The latest that his complete failure in his legal cases is an indication of his brilliance has to be one of the best.

At this rate he will soon claim to be a top debater because he has lost all of his arguments.

Monday, September 18, 2006 12:47:00 PM  

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