Justice O'Connor's retirement
reminds me of her decision in Bush v. Gore and the last dialogue in the 1961
movie Judgment At
directed by Stanley Kramer.
Memorable Quotes from Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
Ernst Janning: Judge Haywood... the reason I asked you to come. Those people, those millions of people... I never knew it would come to that. YOU must believe it, YOU MUST believe it. Judge Dan Haywood: Herr Janning, it came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.
Ernst Janning, a fictional character played
by Burt Lancaster, was the head of The Ministry of Justice during The Third
He was put on trial for war
crimes in 1948 and he was deeply conflicted by his participation with the evil
of his government in the hopes that the greater good of Germany would be
Judge Dan Haywood, played
by Spencer Tracy, speaks to that kind of conflict in his
Judge Dan Haywood: Janning, to be sure, is a tragic figure. We believe he loathed
the evil he did. But compassion for the present torture of his soul must not
beget forgetfulness of the torture and death of millions by the government of
which he was a part. Janning's record and his fate illuminate the most
shattering truth that has emerged from this trial. If he and the other
defendants were all depraved perverts - if the leaders of the Third Reich were
sadistic monsters and maniacs - these events would have no more moral
significance than an earthquake or other natural catastrophes. But this trial
has shown that under the stress of a national crisis, men - even able and
extraordinary men - can delude themselves into the commission of crimes and
atrocities so vast and heinous as to stagger the imagination. No one who has sat
through this trial can ever forget. The sterilization of men because of their
political beliefs... The murder of children... How easily that can happen. There
are those in our country today, too, who speak of the protection of the country.
Of survival. The answer to that is: survival as what? A country isn't a rock.
And it isn't an extension of one's self. It's what it stands for, when standing
for something is the most difficult. Before the people of the world - let it now
be noted in our decision here that this is what we stand for: justice, truth...
and the value of a single human being.
Justice O'Connor's decision in Bush v. Gore
led to the current Bush administration's execution of war crimes and atrocities
in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places in the Middle East that are as egregious
as those committed by the Third Reich and other evil governments in human
The lesson is clear.
Those people who may be honorable and
distinguished in their chosen profession should always make decisions based upon
good rather than evil no matter where their nominal allegiances may rest.
Justice O'Connor was quoted to have said
something to the affect that she abhorred the thought of Bush losing the 2000
election to Gore.
She was known to
have wanted to retire after the 2000 election for same reason she is now
She wanted to spend more
time with her sick husband.
Unfortunately, she tarnished her distinguished career with the deciding
vote in Bush v. Gore by going along with the partisan majority of the Court to
interfere with a democratic election that she and the majority feared would be
lost in an honest recount.
dishonored herself and the Supreme Court by succumbing to party allegiances and
not The Constitution to which she swore to uphold.
And the constitutional argument she and
the majority used to justify their decision was the Equal Protection
The Equal Protection Clause
was the ultimate basis for the decision, but the majority essentially admitted
(what was obvious in any event) that it was not basing its conclusion on any
general view of what equal protection requires. The decision in Bush v Gore was
not dictated by the law in any sense—either the law found through research, or
the law as reflected in the kind of intuitive sense that comes from immersion in
the legal culture.
Protection clause is generally used in matters concerning civil rights.
The majority ignored their basic
conservative views supporting federalism and states' rights in order to justify
History will haunt
these justices down for their utter lack of justice and the hypocrisy associated
with this decision
Sheldon Drobny is Co-founder of Air America Radio.