Judge Jones on judicial independence

| 42 Comments

The Anti-Defamation League has put up the transcript of a fantastic speech given by Judge Jones back in February. Jones gives his perspective on what it was like to be the judge in the Kitzmiller case, and then uses it as a platform to talk about the larger issues of judicial independence, legal precendent, and separation of powers. It’s quite a read – I don’t think the creationists have yet realized how much they marginalize themselves with kneejerk attacks on a class act like Jones.

It’s always risky business to divine what the founding fathers might think about current developments, but I’m certain, I’m entirely certain, that by deciding the Dover case the way that I did, I performed my duties as a district judge in exactly the way that the founding fathers had in mind when they created the Federal Judiciary in Article III of the Constitution.

In fact, I will submit to you that had I decided the Dover matter in a different way, I would have then engaged in just the kind of judicial activism which critics decry. That is, to have ruled in favor of the School Board in this case based on the facts that I had before me at the conclusion of the trial, I would have had to have overlooked precedents entirely and thus impressed upon the facts of the case my sense or the sense of the public concerning what the law should be, and not what it is.

This is ad hoc justice based upon either my preferences or biases or the perceived will of the majority. Taken to its extreme, it is anarchy at any level that to rule in such a fashion represents the true work of an activist judge. And so the real criticism of my decision, and this is one which I will readily accept, is that I did not render an activist decision.

See also the NCSE news story summarizing other recent news coverage on Jones.

42 Comments

This is a truly remarkable speech. It is rare to see a public official present such a clear impression that they view their office not as a set of powers but as a set of duties, and even more rare to see an official who understands they perform their job not as a Democrat or a Republican but as an American.

Though the facts and the law of the Dover case were such that the decision probably could not have gone any significantly different way, I think we are as a country lucky that this important case was handled by a judge with such a clear idea of what he is doing.

Coin: you’re right. But we’re also lucky that this decision was made by a conservative, Lutheran, Republican Bush-appointee. Unfair as this may seem, this is one of those “only Nixon can go to China” moments.

With that speech as background on judiciary independence, read George Bush’s comments on the marriage amendment:

“I call on the Congress to pass this amendment, send it to the states for ratification, so we can take this issue out of the hands of overreaching judges and put it back where it belongs: in the hands of the American people,” Bush said at the White House on Monday.

“When judges insist on imposing their arbitrary will on the people, the only alternative left to the people is an amendment to the Constitution: the only law a court cannot overturn,” he said.

So let’s go change the constitution to match what the polls say… [sigh]

Thanos

“It is rare to see a public official present such a clear impression that they view their office not as a set of powers but as a set of duties, and even more rare to see an official who understands they perform their job not as a Democrat or a Republican but as an American.”

Well said.

As a native Pennsylvanian and a Lutheran, I am glad we have people like Judge Jones. Now if we can only get rid of Santorum this fall.….

Where I work we call this “role modeling.” We can only hope that people not already embedded in this ongoing discussion (I refuse to call it a debate) who hear or read Judge Jones will learn from his example.

Do you think maybe he will be invited to speak at the next Justice Sunday gala?

Davetard Springer, Sept 2005:

Judge John E. Jones on the other hand is a good old boy brought up through the conservative ranks. He was state attorney for D.A.R.E, an Assistant Scout Master with extensively involved with local and national Boy Scouts of America, political buddy of Governor Tom Ridge (who in turn is deep in George W. Bush’s circle of power), and finally was appointed by GW hisself. Senator Rick Santorum is a Pennsylvanian in the same circles (author of the “Santorum Language” that encourages schools to teach the controversy) and last but far from least, George W. Bush hisself drove a stake in the ground saying teach the controversy. Unless Judge Jones wants to cut his career off at the knees he isn’t going to rule against the wishes of his political allies. Of course the ACLU will appeal. This won’t be over until it gets to the Supreme Court. But now we own that too.

Judge Jones, Feb 2006:

Now, as I conclude, let me return to the role of the Rule of Law, which is I think so fundamental and so embedded in our system of justice. We must never forget that the Rule of Law is not a conservative or a liberal value. It is assuredly not a Republican or Democratic value. Rather, it is an American value. Confidence in the Rule of Law rests entirely at any given point in time on the character and the integrity of the individual American judge and on that judge’s absolute commitment to fairness and impartiality.

Judges are very mortal and to be sure, we are deeply imperfect. However, it is no favor to the administration of justice when we either impose or imply public or political agendas on judges.

So let’s go change the constitution to match what the polls say… [sigh]

Nah, if Bush cared what a majority of Americans wanted, he’d have let Gore be president in 2000.

DaveScot seems as talented at prognostication as Dembski: http://www.uncommondescent.com/inde[…]archives/996 http://www.uncommondescent.com/inde[…]archives/371

You could make a fortune betting against them!

[If they paid their losses . …]

I wish more republicans were like Jones. Republicans like him are the reason I’m registered as one.

Yet I voted for more independents and democrats combined on the last ticket than republicans. Where have economic and governmental restraint gone?

We need to clone this man.

AD Wrote:

I wish more republicans were like Jones. Republicans like him are the reason I’m registered as one.

Yet I voted for more independents and democrats combined on the last ticket than republicans. Where have economic and governmental restraint gone?

We need to clone this man.

That’s exactly why Bush seeks to sabotage cloning research in the US. We’ll have to offshore our plans to clone Judge Jones. Then we get accused of cutting jobs for Americans, and it’s a PR victory for the Administration. Dash cunning of them.

Very timely to debunk the hollow objections by the Discovery Institute to the ruling by Judge Jones. The response by the DI shows how serious they consider the ruling to their plans.

Stephen Erickson gave us this UD link:

ID is rapidly going international and crossing metaphysical and theological boundaries.

Now if they could just get some actual science going, they might stand a chance.

And remember, even though the “metaphysical and theological boundaries” are being crossed, ID is not about religion. Nope. No way. Uh-uh.

Can someone nominate this guy for the Supreme Court?

Judge Jones was chosen randomly for the case from the pool of judges, so this suggests (OK, from n=1) that there are more judges out there like Judge Jones. Only they don’t get high profile cases, and hence don’t get the media attention they deserve.

Instead we have to listen to politicians.

Bob

I contend that random chance could never account for the purposeful arrangement of parts that is Judge Jones. His role in this case must be part of some design.

I contend that random chance could never account for the purposeful arrangement of parts that is Judge Jones. His role in this case must be part of some design.

More than one person has noted that Judge Jones and his role in the Dover case are strong evidence(s) for the proposition that God exists and that He is an evolutionist.

I contend that random chance could never account for the purposeful arrangement of parts that is Judge Jones. His role in this case must be part of some design.

Dam*n Wheels, you’re on a roll…

This all leaves me a bit worried. At a certain point the creationists are going to hit a brick wall. There are only so many variations they can do on the same basic thing. It is of great annoyance, but also extremely lucky, that the creationists and IDers chose to target evolution first. Of all science few, if any, other concepts stand on as firm as footing as evolution. And for historical reasons, attempts to attack evolution are automatically linked to religion in most peoples’ eyes, putting the burden of proof squaring on the shoulders of the creationists to show they are not religious (something they can’t do because they are religious). It is like trying to storm the castle by smashing down the front gate. It may be the most visible and most annoying target to them, but it is also the sturdiest. It is also the one most likely to be defended, since it is what holds an entire branch of science together and is essential to several others. What is more, many religious groups have already publicly endorsed evolution, making their claims that it is a christain cause less palpable.

Luckily evolution is one area that they are extremely opposed to due to theology or, more likely, due to hubris (not wanting to be “animals”). This has kept them pretty focused on this as a target, despite the fact that it is probably the worst imaginable target for them to attack. This will likely lead them to continue focusing on it until they exhaust all available options. The problem is, they are rapidly running out of such options. If the “teach the controversy” idea they are pushing is stopped by SCOTUS, which it very well might in the near future, it will stop ID dead and its tracks and likely squash “sudden emergence theory” before it even becomes an issue. Where do they turn from there?

My fear is that they might try to target another area of science that is just as theologically or egocentrically troubling to them but is not on such a firm a footing. There is a large faction that has stuck to its YEC guns and is still fighting the same way they did before Edwards. They are not a major concern anymore, they lack the publicity or any legal grounds to continue their attacks. The concern is for the small fraction, embodied by the DI right now, that is trying to adapt their methods as circumstances change. They have been willing to change in some regards, they may be willing to change their target entirely if they decide their current efforts are futile. They have made some tentative attacks on cosmology, but it is a little late for that since modern cosmology has become very robust and there is no way to possibly leave religion out of the picture for “design” of a universe (there is no way aliens can make an entire universe). Geology has proved pretty difficuly for them, I doubt they could get the public sufficiently concerned to cause a serious problem there and they have probably used the radiocarbon argument too much to seperate it from the larger evolution debate. They may need to find a new target they have not really dealt with directly before, which would mean it is a target science is not used to defending.

Things are simply going too well at this point. I am concerned about how the opponents of science will react when pushed into a corner. Their closed-mindedness and stubborness has so far put them at a serious disadvantage, but if they are left with no other choice they may attack targets science will have much more trouble defending. I am not saying scientists should stop, any victory for creationsts could cause irreperable harm, but sooner or later they will have to…evolve. It may come from a source or aim for a target scientists do not expect. We simply need to be vigilant. Scientists have focused so long and so hard on defending the front gate we may not notice a disguised group trying to sneak in through the back door until it is too late. Kitzmiller was a massive victory and it seems others are likely on the way. Their current goals will be much harder, if not impossible, to achieve now. It may be a good idea to begin looking at likely future targets, try to anticipate what they are going to do next and take steps to either prevent them from being able to do that at all or at least preparing to defend against them when and if they do decide to change their focus.

At a certain point the creationists are going to hit a brick wall

I think you missed that accident. You’d have to go back to Edwards v Aguillard in 1987 to catch that wipeout in person, but you can always see the newscast summary here:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/edw[…]uillard.html

ID is rapidly going international and crossing metaphysical and theological boundaries.

ROTFL, that may explain why Dembski seems so desperate lately. Check out his blog…

Gees, Pim! it’s like they only post in response to what we write over here.

scary.

Linguistics in the US is now controlled by a single satrap and his school — Noam Chomsky at MIT

LOL.

good luck selling that one WD40!

I bet Arden has a few choice words to share on that.

Shenda Wrote:

As a native Pennsylvanian and a Lutheran, I am glad we have people like Judge Jones. Now if we can only get rid of Santorum this fall.….

Since Santorum had no opponent in the primary I wrote in Judge Jones, if only to make a statement. More pragmatically, in Nov. I have to vote Democratic, at least to get rid of the DI’s sock puppet.

Can someone nominate this guy for the Supreme Court?

Not for at least another 2.5 years. I suspect W’s regretting that he nominated him for anything.

I am concerned about how the opponents of science will react when pushed into a corner.

They are not “opponents of scidence”; they are “opponents of democracy”. Their fight is political and has political aims, not scientific. Read all about them at:

http://www.geocities.com/lflank/fundies.htm

And they are already out of options. Even with Republicrat control of the White House, both houses of Congress AND the federal judiciary, the fundies have not managed to pass a single element of their social agenda. The simple fact is that nobody supports the fundie agenda, and even Bush and Co are not stupid enough to commit political suicide by passing it.

Since the fundies are quite unable to obtain their political/social goals by democratic methods, their only option is to attempt NON-democratic methods.

And if that happens, I submit that we are justified in using whatever methods become necessary in order to restore democracy and the rule of constitutional law.

Since Santorum had no opponent in the primary I wrote in Judge Jones, if only to make a statement. More pragmatically, in Nov. I have to vote Democratic, at least to get rid of the DI’s sock puppet.

As an aside, I agree with this. I’m a registered repub, yet I’d very, very quickly vote for a dem/independent/pretty much anyone not a nazi over any republican pandering the (insert your expletive of choice here) garbage from the DI.

A solid demonstration that religious fundamentalism is turning into political poison with the other half of their political base (that being the actual, historical conservatives) might have a long-term positive impact on scientific education and awareness in this country.

If this isn’t a scientific fight, losing the political fight as well might open some eyes.

Todd,

I understand your concerns but think that the people who oppose evolution picked it precisely because it allows them to gain a toehold with regular people. Creationists have long tried opposing physics and geology, because evidence from those fields supports an old universe and earth. However, Joe and Jane Average don’t really care about stars or rocks. Chemistry? Engineering? They don’t care. But if you tell them that those atheist evolutionists say that they were descended from apes, well, that raises their hackles! So evolution is the issue of choice because it can be spun as contradicting their religion. As Lenny pointed out, that makes it essentially a political issue.

Your call for caution is very important. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Todd: They (or others similar) are already attacking other sciences - cosmology (think of that Priviledged Planet) and neuroscience, particularly psychology, with the insistence on psychoneural dualism. The latter is especially of concern, since here they have the support of most religions.

hehehe

Psycho what?

What’s Dembski’s latest?

TADAH .…NeuroTheology!!

Yes folks the all singing all dancing SuperTwit from that loveable outfit that brought you neoPaleyism is .…wait for it…going straight for that black hole that is the Fundy Brain. Money…it’s a gas..Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash New car, caviar, four star daydream, Think I’ll buy me a football team.

Linguistics in the US is now controlled by a single satrap and his school — Noam Chomsky at MIT

LOL.

good luck selling that one WD40!

I bet Arden has a few choice words to share on that.

Yeah, I already left my choice words on that at the ATBC thread. Suffice it to say that like most things Dembski cites, it’s badly out of date. It would have been basically true in the early 1970’s, but it’s not anymore. An unhealthy cult of personality did indeed grow up around Chomsky in linguistics, but thousands of linguists today do work where Chomsky’s ideas are either rejected or simply irrelevant. There are still linguists who worship Chomsky (especially syntacticians, especially in Europe), but there are plenty of other linguists who don’t. He does not ‘control’ linguistics anymore, tho his followers certainly like to say they do.

Russell Wrote:

I suspect W’s regretting that he nominated him for anything.

I’m not a W fan either, but I don’t think he cares one way or another on this issue. All he did last summer was parrot an ID soundbite. I don’t think he has a clue about ID or science education in general. While my usual repertoire is to remind everyone that the scammers are not necessarily clueless, it’s a safe bet that W truly is clueless. And isn’t about to seek the opinion of defenders of science. Look how long it took him to pick a science advisor - one who also rejects ID. And no, I don’t think he “ran out of creationist candidates.”

OTOH, if Jones ruled for embryonic stem cell research, then W would likely regret it.

Todd Wrote:

…And for historical reasons, attempts to attack evolution are automatically linked to religion in most peoples’ eyes, putting the burden of proof squaring on the shoulders of the creationists to show they are not religious (something they can’t do because they are religious). It is like trying to storm the castle by smashing down the front gate. It may be the most visible and most annoying target to them, but it is also the sturdiest. It is also the one most likely to be defended, since it is what holds an entire branch of science together and is essential to several others…

My fear is that they might try to target another area of science that is just as theologically or egocentrically troubling to them but is not on such a firm a footing.

…global warming…

Don’t worry about Santorum. He IS on his way out.

http://www.myelectionanalysis.com/?p=1068

If this isn’t a scientific fight, losing the political fight as well might open some eyes.

It might also open some barbed-wire encampments.

AppleIIE Wrote:

Don’t worry about Santorum. He IS on his way out.

With 2 years to campaign for ‘08, without worrying about neglecting Senatorial duties. And opposing the first female presidential candidate. I’m not celebrating just yet. In fact no outcome of that election would make me celebrate. Then again, that’s been the case for nearly every presidential election since I’ve been voting (‘72).

Note to AppleIIE:

(BW of explanation, the linked article partially concerns Santorum’s failure to maintain a viable Pennsylvania residence.)

There’s a satire or comedy routine somewhere that starts out telling the tale of “… little Johnny, who lived in Washington, DC, and whose father was a representative from some midwestern state – in fact, no one could tell Johnny exactly which state it was, except that if his father ever lost an election, they’d have to move there…”

Frank:

Senatorial terms are 6 years, with 1/3 of the Senate incumbents standing for re-election each year; I believe Santorum is up for re-election this year.

Bill,

I meant the presidential election. If he loses the ‘06 senatorial election, he won’t have to answer to those who ask why he’s campaigning instead of doing the job he’s paid for. If he runs for president, and if Hillary is his opponent, he has a good shot of winning.

To be clear on another matter, I have no problem with a woman president (hint: draft Eugenie Scott), but I’m not sure one is electable yet, even Hillary.

For me, the juiciest part of this excellent speech was the magisterial trouncing of Phyllis Schafly, especially the implication that she should be taking an elementary civics class. Given the fact that Judge Jones made the speech back in 10 Feb 2006, Ms Schafly has had ample time to recant her position or refute the points made by Judge Jones. I’ve googled for any response from her but can’t see anything relevant. Does anyone know if she’s said anything at all? It’s not enough that this repellent woman be spanked; I want her reaction as well. Eating crow & humble pie is fine, but it’s much better if done publicly.

I meant the presidential election. If he loses the ‘06 senatorial election, he won’t have to answer to those who ask why he’s campaigning instead of doing the job he’s paid for. If he runs for president, and if Hillary is his opponent, he has a good shot of winning.

Are we talking about RICK SANTORUM here?

I’m unsure if you are familiar with the guy at all, but he’s the poster child for the candidate the Republican party should under no circumstances EVER run for president. Some of his views are so extreme and his rhetoric and ethics so disgusting that I know lifetime Republicans in PA who are planning on voting against him.

These are people who voted for Shrub, who voted for his father, who voted for Reagan, and some of whom voted Republican all the way back to Nixon. And they’re abandoning him. Look at the polling numbers. For an incumbent senator to be losing by > 10% is a frightening proposition. It’s also not an indication of the overall landscape in politics - Santorum is a creepy, ethically bankrupt bastard from all the reports that keep coming out, and he’d lose to pretty much anyone at this point.

Santorum won’t run for president, and if he does, he’s going to get absolutely slaughtered in the primaries, much less the real deal.

AD Wrote:

Santorum won’t run for president, and if he does, he’s going to get absolutely slaughtered in the primaries, much less the real deal.

I hope you are right, if only because of this issue, on which he seems to be play both sides lately, as opposed to hysterically defending the DI.

Unfortunately the name I keep hearing most for ‘08, McCain, also parroted some pro-ID sound bites.

also parroted some pro-ID sound bites.

As I recall, so did Al Gore.

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on June 5, 2006 4:54 PM.

Golden Oldies: Transitional Fossils was the previous entry in this blog.

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