Monday, July 28, 2008

McFadden responds

I'll give a tip of the hat to Chris McFadden for emailing me a response to this post I did regarding a press release he emailed out touting his refusal to fill out questionnaire, and I appreciate his response. It's a detailed answer, and one that I don't necessarily disagree with.

McFadden's making the argument that, in essence, I think I also made when I alluded to the fact that I didn't care for partisan judgeship races ... which is the courts should act impartially regardless of political persuasion and questionnaires by special interest groups only play into tying politics to the rule of law. It's a fair rebuttal, and I posted it below ...

Fair question, Jmac. Why should you care? You should care if you care about the rule of law. Since you identify To Kill a Mockingbird as both a favorite book and a favorite movie, I imagine that you do care about the rule of law - that you do think it important that courts administer justice fairly and impartially, regardless of political pressure.

The rule of law has been up for grabs in state judicial elections since 2002. In 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Minnesota judicial ethics rules that had forbidden judicial candidates from prejudging cases.

Later that year, the federal appellate court with jurisdiction over Georgia followed suit and struck down the corresponding Georgia rules. That why the last two contested Georgia Supreme Court elections were so ugly.

Those federal decisions, and other similar decisions elsewhere in the country, are the product of an organized, nationwide attack on such ethics rules. That attack has been brought on behalf of certain ideological interest groups.

Questionnaires like the one I refused to answer are a second stage of that attack. Those interest groups would subject judicial candidates to litmus tests. They want judicial candidates to prejudge certain issues.

I discussed this problem generally in a short op-ed titled "Truth, Justice, All That Stuff," which was published two years ago in the Atlanta Bar Association's magazine and is on my web page, A national organization, Justice at Stake, has a longer discussion in a report at That report discusses questionnaires in some detail, beginning on page 28.

I was actively engaged in the effort to preserve a fair and impartial judiciary before the Supreme Court's decision in the Minnesota case. Because of that involvement, I recognized this questionnaire as part of the ongoing attack on the fairness and impartiality of the judiciary and on the rule of law. That is why I issued a press release about my refusal to answer.


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