20 January 2006

This morning I was unable to come up with the correct reason for why lawyers shouldn't lie, and Almea was kind enough to provide it to me. (Answer: because it's only a warped view of justice that says we can arrive at just results by lying.) The rationales I came up with were much lamer, and I'm too embarrassed to share them right now.

Worried about my eroding integrity, I read Michael Kinsley's observations on the supreme court nomination process with interest. He arrives at an interesting Catch-22: either Roberts and Alito were lying in their internal Reagan administration memos advocating stricter conservative positions, or they're lying today in saying that those memos didn't represent their personal positions (despite explicit language implying that the views were those of the author). Kinsley concludes, tongue-in-cheek, that lawyers are duty-bound to lie. The more obvious conclusion, of course, is that politicians and those seeking political positions are the ones who seem to be lying. I think he's pretty much right on about that.

Kinsley also takes on the fetish that the media and the political establishment have with Supreme Court nominees refusing to pre-judge cases. This is an absurd standard that anyone who has seen a trial will recognize has no place in actual legal practice. Jurors are asked before trial if they have any views that might prevent them from being fair arbiters. When they say they might, they are then asked if they could set those views aside and follow the law. The same standard can apply to judicial nominees. They can (and should) give their views on issues, and then say that they would still be able to follow the law. This is important not only so that we can stop this ritual of nominees lying to the world, but also because the Supreme Court is, in limited respects, unavoidably a policymaking body (which is heresy to some, and which is a source of discomfort for many others, including me. I will try to lay out what I mean in greater detail some other time.) We deserve to know what our policymakers think. That's not to say that philosophy or political views should be paramount, but they deserve to be part of the discussion.

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