Obama on a justice's role

Richard D. Friedman rdfrdman at umich.edu
Tue May 26 11:52:05 PDT 2009

Obviously, the President's statement is an exaggeration and 
misleading if taken at face value.  But there is an element of truth 
in it:  Supreme Court justices are constrained by the law in a way 
that legislatures are not.  That doesn't mean the constraints are 
always clear or decisive, of course.  And when the Court does 
something that appears to be a mere political choice unconstrained by 
law -- I'm thinking Bush v. Gore -- much of the public reacts 
negatively, and rightly so.

Rich Friedman

At 12:52 PM 5/26/2009, Steve Sanders wrote:
>As a con law professor, would Barack Obama have told his students 
>that the job of a Supreme Court justice was simply (to quote his 
>statement this morning) "to interpret, not make law" and to 
>"faithfully apply the law to the facts at hand"?  Indeed, is the 
>latter even a competent description of what appellate (as opposed to 
>trial) courts do?  If not, why do we continue to hear them as 
>descriptors of so many politicians' ideal SCt justice?  Might we 
>have expected better leadership from someone like Obama in 
>explaining to the nation what a Supreme Court justice actually does, 
>rather than falling back on these sorts of cliches?
>Steve Sanders
>Supreme Court and appellate litigation practice group, Mayer Brown LLP, Chicago
>Co-editor, <http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/lgbtlaw/>Sexual 
>Orientation and the Law Blog
>Adjunct faculty, University of Michigan Law School (Winter term 2010)
>Email: <mailto:stevesan at umich.edu>stevesan at umich.edu
>Personal home page: <http://www.stevesanders.net/>www.stevesanders.net
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