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Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press
In this March 21, 2017 photo, Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch smiles on Capitol Hill in Washington, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Judges are not politicians in robes.” Judge Neil Gorsuch, nominated for our Supreme Court, used that high-sounding phrase to emphasize the majesty of the law, and also by the way to avoid answering hypothetical case questions by those politicians known as United States senators.
In one sense, he was right. Our common law system and tradition is the bedrock foundation of our government. Judges should not make decisions lightly or arbitrarily, and rarely do, especially at the federal level.
That is the main reason why the great majority of Supreme Court decisions are not 5-4, but rather are decided by more substantial margins. An excellent example is the 2011 decision in Snyder v. Phelps regarding freedom of speech.
In an 8 to 1 decision, the court determined a hateful group can picket military funerals, despite the added suffering imposed on those bereaved. The bigoted “church” involved craves publicity, pursued in disgusting ways, and won’t be named in this column.