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A Journalistic Whitewash of a Judicial Imperialist

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It's generally good manners to say nice things about people on such occasions as their retirements, their funerals, or their advanced-years birthdays.  Just let the bad things slide for the occasion.  It is possible to go too far with that, however.  Mississippi Senator Trent Lott found that out when he said, at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party, that America would have had fewer problems if Thurmond had been elected president in 1948.  Although he later saw the error of his ways, Thurmond was a fire-breathing segregationist in 1948, and, no, it would not have been better.  Lott was ousted as Senate Majority Leader.

We saw something similar in the Sacramento Bee over the weekend.  Denny Walsh has this unintentionally hilarious whitewash of the career of one of the worst judicial imperialists on the federal bench, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton, who has finally retired for real (as opposed to the semiretired "senior status").

For example, there is this knee-slapper, attempting to refute the charges of activism with affirmance rate:  "The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals usually affirmed his decisions, though it was well stocked with appointees of Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. and George W. Bush."

Well stocked?  This should be in The Onion, not a real newspaper.  The Ninth was packed during the Carter Administration.  Anyone who knows anything about the federal courts knows that the Ninth Circuit is nationally notorious as the most left-wing appellate court in the nation, and it is generally the court most reversed by the Supreme Court (although the Sixth is sometimes competitive for the latter dishonor).  A high affirmance rate in the Ninth means nothing with regard to refuting a charge of left-wing judicial activism, and every journalist worth his salt covering the courts knows that.

Walsh says, "To the end, every time Lawrence Karlton interpreted and applied the Constitution, that enduring blueprint of our democracy was in very good hands."  Quite the contrary, democracy was in peril every time Karlton disagreed with its results.   See, e.g., CJLF's and Crime Victims United's brief in Valdivia v. Schwarzenegger.

Walsh also says, "There is little chance we shall see his like again."  On this point, I hope to God he is right.

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