Judging by this Senate race, we can keep worrying about our courts

People walk in front of the Supreme Court building in Washington, March 24, 2013. ( REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
People walk in front of the Supreme Court building in Washington, March 24, 2013. ( REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

If you’re concerned that the nation’s courts have become a political football being recklessly tossed about by pandering and righteous politicos hunting for votes, Iowa’s U.S. Senate race has done precious little to ease your troubled mind.

First, we had Democratic hopeful Bruce Braley telling a pack of Texas trial lawyers that he’d see to it that some no-law-school-attending farmer from Iowa named Grassley wouldn’t get his paws on their Senate Judiciary Committee. And let’s keep this between us. Folks in Iowa might not take kindly to me saying that. Hey, is that a camera?

Then, more recently, at a forum sponsored by Bob Vander Plaats’ Family Leader group, blogger Erick Erickson asked four Republican Senate hopefuls what their criteria would be for blocking President Obama’s judicial nominees. Never mind who they are, or their qualifications. Block ‘em.

College professor Sam Clovis said he has a “very firm litmus test.”

“Can he or she explain to me natural law and natural rights?” Clovis said.

I’ll give it a shot. When stupid humans pass laws or make court decisions Clovis doesn’t agree with, they violate “natural law.” And, naturally, in this case, natural law is whatever Clovis and his ideological allies say it is.

Should I be measured for a robe?

“Absolutely,” said state Sen. Joni Ernst, seconding Clovis’ answer, not my nomination. Ernst said she would expect judicial nominees to know where the Constitution and laws come from. “They all did come from God,” she said. You’d think serving in the Legislature would temper her notions of divinely inspired lawmaking.

“My litmus test on judges is will they uphold the Constitution of the United States and not legislate from the bench?” said former energy executive Mark Jacobs, unaware that you can’t be a Family Leader by sounding all reasonable.

Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker said all that stuff is not enough. “What I’d like to see is, I’d like to see things like their world view. What informs them? How would they live their lives? Are they people of faith? Do they have a biblical view of justice?” Whitaker said.

This week, our editorial board asked him if “biblical view of justice” means non-Christians need not apply.

“No. I don’t feel that way,” Whitaker said. “Our Constitution prevents religious tests. I was not describing a religious test. I was describing what I would prefer in a judge and how I would go about interviewing and selecting.”

So would you put a hold on a nominee lacking that world view?

“No,” Whitaker said. After a few more questions, he insisted that a biblical world view would be just one among many factors he’d consider. “I see this issue as a small piece of what I would bring to evaluating judges,” he said, sounding less and less like a Family Leader and more like a former federal prosecutor who knows better.

Clovis got Vander Plaats’ endorsement this week, in accordance with natural law.

This persistent argument coming from many within one of our two great parties that judges should also be pastors is a big issue. Maybe not as interesting as Psalms on fire trucks, but still, pretty big. Something to think about before you decide to skip those boring midterms.

l Comments: (319) 398-8452; todd.dorman@sourcemedia.net

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