A concerned supporter asked me if the judges were circling the wagons around my incumbent opponent to protect him in the upcoming judicial race for Seat 2 of the Superior Court, and I happily reported that there was no such thing occurring. After all, when it comes to the Constitution and a dedication to the Framers’ notion that the judiciary is the servant of the People, not its boss, I am the veritable wagon master in these parts, so how could anyone circle a wagon against me?
The judiciary is not a closed fraternity; it is a branch of government charged with the duty to patrol the borderlines of the Constitution, to resolve disputes with neutrality and competency to inspire people not to take matters in their own hands in the streets, and to protect individuals from overweening government while respecting the notion that ordered liberty requires an attention to some measure of inspired order.
My candidacy has been received with respect, admiration, and quiet support from surprising circles, because all who know me, regardless of what “side” they might be on in any dispute, know that I am fiercely dedicated to the Constitution and to what this Republic is, or is supposed to be, all about, and hence everyone’s interests would properly be served by having me on the trial bench.
Since some missed it, I will reiterate here my promises regarding my run for Seat Number 2 of the Superior Court for the County of Riverside.
These are my promises:
1. Neutrality will be the goal and execution of my service. No one will come into my courtroom with a leg-up on credibility or on merit. It is obvious that all litigants and interested persons have a stake in the outcome of cases, from arresting officers, to prosecutors, to the accused, to the accused’s counsel. Any Pollyanna suggestion otherwise is naïve or duplicitous. Accordingly, I shall listen to and study the testimony and the arguments and the papers of all participants and shall arrive at decisions without regard to the identity or station of the people presenting them. Indeed, I look askance at any judge who is “endorsed by law enforcement” or by any force associated with any primary litigants before the courts, because there manifestly is a quid pro quo for such endorsements that does not spell “n-e-u-t-r-a-l.” Then-soon-to-be Chief Justice John Roberts said it best at his confirmation hearing, and he defined what will be my standard:
“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 a ball game to see the umpire. Judges have to have the humility to recognize that they operate within a system of precedent, shaped by other judges equally striving to live up to the judicial oath.”
2. I shall not let “black-robe-itis” infect me, as we have seen happen to so many other judges who started out with promises of thoughtfulness and neutrality, but who soon sunk into the stock and growing pro-government statism they promised to avoid. Read #1, supra. Who and what I am and what I profess and promise shall not change after I don the robe. My soul has to last a lot longer than any “job.”
3. I shall not presume that I know everything about any subject or issue merely because I am the “one wearing the robe.” A robe is not a talisman of power or omniscience, but rather and simply a covering of the person to enable and guarantee and give the appearance of neutrality, and to avoid distractions associated with the judge’s personal attire: all judges look alike so they will apply law according to neutral principles.
4. Related to #s 1 and 3, I shall listen to, and shall assess, and, where necessary research, all presentations of law and fact given to me by all litigants and shall not presume any side is right or wrong because of the identity of the side which has made the presentation. I know a lot, but I do not know it all, nor will I act as though I do, and I literally learn something I did not know about this craft every day, and I shall continue to be open to being taught by others. I will always be open to approach by counsel by either side [provided the other side is in attendance on pending matters] about any issue of law or fact. My devotion to learnedness means I want to learn, not to command.
5. I hate bullies, be they of the street, of the schools, of the constabulary, of others in government, of the bench, or of any setting in which people of greater power pick on those of lesser power, and I have never been one and will not be one on the bench. There are too many bullies on the bench, especially with pro pers, and I shall never sink to that flip-side of cowardice.
6. Related to number 5, I shall not bark at nor berate any person in the courtroom, be they counsel, litigant, public [who has a right to attend most court proceedings without explanation or harassment], nor especially court personnel [who are exceedingly vital, and often thanklessly so, to the operation of the whole]. If I cannot get my point across without being blustery and rude, I have no business being in the position of service allowing me to make judgments against others’ lives, liberty, or property.
7. If any participant exclaims that “the cases hold” thus and so, I will expect them to identify specifically what cases hold what. I have learned from 30 years of observation that when counsel of either side trumpets “the cases hold,” without any citation, there are no cases so holding, and that is a misrepresentation of law to the Court.
8. I will also be open to anyone quietly approaching me and suggesting that these promises or other standards of being a judge in this Republic are being violated by me. The isolation somewhat necessary to neutrality can sometimes result in the judges who do want to operate under proper principles to lose touch with certain things, and I will appreciate suggestions that these promises of a devotion to neutral, properly-principled service have transmogrified into less than the ideal. My greatest fear, my greatest nightmare, would be that I would start to become like the judges I have properly reviled over the decades, because then I would be a failure as a lawyer, as a public servant, as a steward of the Constitution and of the Republic, and as a man, and I will welcome input about that.
That is who and what I am; those are my promises. Do not be lulled into the belief that incumbency is a virtue when it comes to public service, because it is not; it is more often a product of inertia and lack of understanding by the electorate than of merit in the office-holder. Everybody whom the public empowers to serve them needs to prove that they deserve the public’s entrustment at election time. I do. My opponent does not.