State Supremes Rebuff Questionnaire

The Family Action Center of Tennessee sent the three state supreme court justices who are up for retention a simple questionnaire. David Fowler, head of FACT, wrote “The purpose of the survey was to help Tennesseans better understand the judicial philosophy of those who would serve as justices on our state’s Supreme Court.” This questionnaire was sent to Justices Cornelia A. Clark, Sharon G. Lee, and Gary R. Wade.

1.Which of the following current Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court most reflects your judicial
philosophy? (circle one)
Alito, Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Sotomayor, Thomas

2. Please rate your judicial philosophy on a scale of 1 to 10, with “strict constructionism” being a “1”
and “non-interpretivism” being a “10”. For purposes of this question, “strict constructionism” means “judges should interpret a document or statute (esp. one involving penal sanctions) according to its literal terms, without looking to other sources to ascertain the meaning.” “Non-interpretivism” means “judges are not confined to the Constitution’s text or pre-ratification history but may instead look to evolving social norms and values as the basis for constitutional judgments.” Definitions from Black’s Law.

3. Do you AGREE or DISAGREE with the statement by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, in the context of interpreting the Eighth Amendment, that a provision in the U.S. Constitution “must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.”

4. Do you AGREE or DISAGREE (circle one) with the following statement from Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts “Judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around. Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules; they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to the game to see the umpire.”

5. Do you AGREE or DISAGREE (circle one) that courts in the United States should look to the laws of other countries and international law to interpret the U.S. Constitution?

6. Do you AGREE or DISAGREE (Circle one) with the reasoning in this statement from the U.S. Supreme Court “These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life?”

7. Do you AGREE or DISAGREE “How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal
law and natural law.”

8. Do you AGREE or DISAGREE with this statement by former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice William E. Barker?
“[P]rotection of “liberty” by the judiciary, however, must be accompanied by something more than a
mere declaration of the fact, and the courts cannot substitute their own view of the wisdom and desirability of legislation in order to protect what they alone perceive to be ‘fundamental rights.’ Absent a violation of a specific constitutional provision, it is within the realm and competence of the people’s representatives in the General Assembly to make such value judgments. Otherwise, the cardinal doctrine of separation of powers, upon which the very theory of Tennessee government rests, see Tenn. Con. art 2, §§ 1, 2, is rendered utterly without meaning.”

9. Do you AGREE or DISAGREE that The Constitution does not require things which are different in fact or opinion to be treated in law as though they were the same.” Vacco v. Quill, 521 U.S. 793, 799 (1997) (quotation marks and citation omitted). “[W]here a group possesses distinguishing characteristics relevant to interests the State has the authority to implement, a State’s decision to act on the basis of those differences does not give rise to a
constitutional violation.” Bd. of Trs. of the Univ. of Ala. v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356, 366-67 (2001).(quotation marks omitted.)

Rather important topics, don’t you think, and ones which they could easily answer – and should – before we vote.

Two justices, Lee and Clark, responded that it was their policy “not to answer questionnaires in order to prevent any appearance that my consideration of a case that comes before the Supreme Court would be influenced by anything other than the record and the law applicable to that case. For this reason, I must respectfully decline to answer this questionnaire.”

Wade’s reply was equally wimpy and you can read it here: ://

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