Radical right resents judges and juries


The right-wing effort to defeat independent-minded judges has reached the usually peaceful second floor of the Ronald Reagan State Building in downtown Los Angeles, home of the
2nd District Court of Appeal.

The justices’ office suite is a quiet place, insulated from the noise of Spring Street. When I was at the Times just down the street, the justices used to invite me over occasionally to give them tips on dealing with the press. Not that they needed it. Reporters seldom came calling to inquire about their heavily legalistic and usually non-controversial decisions.

But these days no judge is safe from the assault of the religious right, anti-government crusaders and law and order zealots. And, as a result of the reach and speed of the Internet, the most obscure fringe group can spread its message as if it were a fast moving virus, penetrating even the second floor of the Reagan building.

The Terry Schiavo Case, prayer, gay relationships and abortion decisions have prompted vicious attacks on the courts. On each of these issues, the radical right have gone after the courts and judges, rather than the legal reasoning behind the decisions.

These assaults from the conservative evangelical Christian bloc — the Republicans’ much heralded base — has prompted retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a Republican appointed by President Reagan, to warn that the independence of judges, and the rights of all Americans, are threatened by such attacks, as is the freedom of us all. It was an unusually forthright speech, given earlier this year and reported by the only journalist present, Nina Totenberg, NPR’s legal affairs correspondent.

I didn’t pay much attention until I received a call from one of the appellate justices. He told me that there was much concern in the legal community because of far-right slates urging a no vote on some of the justices. The governor appoints the justices, and whenever they seek another term, they are on the ballot to be confirmed or rejected by the voters with a yes or no vote. Judges are on Tuesday’s ballot. Judges are non-partisan, and governors, from Arnold Schwarzenegger back to his predecessors, have appointed Republicans and Democrats to the bench.

At first, I wasn’t especially interested. Why pay attention to fringe groups? But the appellate judge kept after me. Then I got a call from a lawyer who said the situation was of special importance to the Jewish community. Her point: We’re people of the law. And in this country, the law, a Constitution that separates religion from the state, has protected our beliefs.

Searching through the web, I came to the site of California Christians.net also known as bw.boyarsky@verizon.net.

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