Guest Column: Impartiality a must for judges

A Voice in the Crowd

The primary concern of all those who have anything to do with courts of law is that they, whether attorney or client, plaintiff or defendant, prosecutor or accused, receive a fair and impartial hearing. Since everyone may, at some time, be involved in the legal process, we all need to be deeply concerned that judges be unbiased and open minded.

It appears that the president and his minions, including senators like Orrin Hatch and congressmen like Tom DeLay, are in the camp of radical religionists Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and their kind.

Robertson was recently quoted as saying that liberal activist judges are, “destroying the fabric which holds our nation together.” He deems them, “more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings.”

In other words, Robertson appears to be saying that his “morality” is the fabric of which he speaks. But, except for those generally accepted taboos such as murder, theft and other crimes against persons which are defined by criminal laws, morality is a matter of personal choice. The freedom to choose one’s friends, beliefs or lifestyle is a person’s inalienable and most valuable right.

All of the current complaints about “liberal activist judges” stem from an unfounded belief that this country began as and continues to be a “Christian” nation. That sanctimonious idea has been broadened by radical Christians to mean that their rigid rules of morality should apply to all of us. Unfortunately, most of the Christian community, despite its claim of tolerance, seems to go along with the extremists.

America has grown from first being a haven from religious intolerance into a place that welcomed all faiths and their respective moralities. It now appears that the same intolerance that drove the pilgrims from Europe is taking a firm hold in the highest positions in today’s administration.

That administration obviously wants the ability, without opposition, to appoint judges who, because of their biases, will not give fair consideration to those whose views are opposite to theirs. Judges have always been required to set aside their own beliefs when ruling on issues before them. Partiality has no place in the courts.

What has held and still holds this nation together transcends the rules of any religion. It’s partly the prospect of prosperity intimated by the American lifestyle, but mostly it’s the security of being able to make personal choices without the intervention of or preclusion by some authority.

Allowing a person his or her choice does nothing to impair someone else’s ethic. If abortion offends your moral code—don’t have one. If one believes the gay lifestyle is immoral, it doesn’t mean we all do or have to. Because the Bible represents truth for some doesn’t mean it must for others.

The right of free choice must be protected. The only guarantee that it will be lies with the courts, but only if they remain fair, open-minded and impartial and independent of the other branches of government.

Jim Spelman is a Rockford resident and local attorney.

From the June 1-7, 2005, issue

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