Outhouse Lawyers

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Juan Non-Volokh points out another case of assuming a judge's view on abortion from little to no evidence. This time it's Judge John Roberts, for whom the only evidence is that he worked in the solicitor general's office while the administration who put him there was pro-life. While working there, he had to give the best arguments he could come up with in defense of some pro-life positions, but that doesn't mean he endorses everything he said. It's a bit beyond the evidence to call him a real hardliner, which everyone seems to be doing.

This complements my own contention that we know next to nothing about Alberto Gonzales' views on abortion. Many people are saying he's liberal or moderate on abortion, but I don't think we have any reason to think that. We know one thing. He believes that when a state has a law that a judge should decide whether a girl is mature enough to make moral decisions that display awareness of the relevant issues, he believes that such a judge should make an accurate assessment of that girl's maturity. The only evidence of anything he's said about abortion is based on exactly that. He may have opposed the law in question, for all we know. All we do know is that he was following the law in determining whether this girl was morally mature enough that she was aware of the relevant issues. Of the two, I think the guesswork for Roberts is more likely to be accurate, but even there I don't think we should assume he agrees with all the positions that it was his job to write on behalf of the administration.

[For some evidence that Gonzales may oppose the law he followed, consider this quote: "While the ramifications of such a law and the results of the Court's decision here may be personally troubling to me as a parent, it is my obligation as a judge to impartially apply the laws of this state without imposing my moral view." (source: slate, though I think that column makes the very mistake I've been explaining) That quote suggests to me that his moral view is that such laws shouldn't exist and that parents should be able to restrict their children of this age from having abortions, no matter what judges think.]

Speaking of which, Another Man's Meat has just revised his Outhouse Lawyers from last year. This is not only my favorite post Phil has ever written, but it's my favorite term any blogger has ever coined. It's sort of like backseat drivers or armchair quarterbacks, only much more informative about what sort of advice or criticism is actually being given. I think it's pretty appropriate for many of the people deciding the views of judges whose records are at best not clear.

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