Another Pol Drinks the Kool-Aid

Another week. Another lame politician whining about a judicial decision he doesn't like by calling it "arrogant." This time, it's Colorado Governor Bill Owens stomping his foot and threatening to call legislators back into special session so that they can try again to take many state services away from illegal immigrants. The last effort was rejected by the Colorado Supreme Court, which earlier this week ruled that an anti-immigrant ballot measure violated the state constitution because its language was too broad, too capable of differing interpretations, and too unfocused to comport with legal requirements.

Never mind that the "public policy" debate can continue without a ballot measure, and that a valid voter initiative can be placed before voters during a future election, the Governor is in a judge-blaming mood because the third branch of government didn't let him have his way. "Yesterday, our State Supreme Court ignored years of legal precedent and decided that the public should not have a say in one of the most important public policy debates of our time. In my opinion, the court's decision was inconsistent, it was inappropriate, and yes, I even believe it was arrogant," Owens said.

And so we get to read another tired chapter from the Book of Delay and Cornyn, the Texas politicians who have made it their business to blame "arrogant" judges for every ruling they don't happen to agree with, from the eminently reasonable and defensible rulings last spring that finally ended the Terri Schiavo saga to pretty much any decision authored by Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Reagan-appointee who has drawn recent wrath from conservatives for his votes in death penalty cases. But the verses, whether they come from Washington or Colorado, don't translate so well anymore.

In the Colorado case, the initiative that Governor Owens wants on the ballot would only generate waves of litigation if it were to pass. Indeed, the Supreme Court may have given the taxpayers of Colorado, and their misguided legislators, a great gift by halting the process now and giving everyone a chance to fix the language before it goes to the voters. Proactive government. Smart legislation. Informed voters. Imagine that.

By Andrew Cohen |  June 14, 2006; 9:30 AM ET
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I seem to recall a lot of judge-blamers from the other side of the political spectrum back in 2000. This is a universal tactic; people criticize judges when it's in their political interest to do so, and people defend judges on the same basis. Court decisions often have significant public consequences, and I don't see why judges should be insulated from criticism by the public or the public's elected representatives.

Posted by: Tom T. | June 19, 2006 07:07 PM

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