Re: What is the best judicial philosophy?
Stephen Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He has taught at Yale since 1982. Carter is known for his legal and social policy writings, which include Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby, The Culture of Disbelief, and God's Name in Vain: The Wrongs and Rights of Religion in Politics. He has also written novels, including New England White and The Emperor of Ocean Park. Carter's areas of expertise include constitutional law, contracts, intellectual property law, secrets and lying, and law and religion. He clerked for Judge Spottswood W. Robinson III of the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals for and Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court. He was educated at Stanford University and Yale, where he earned his law degree.
Question: What is the best judicial philosophy?
Stephen Carter: I’ve written about the term “judicial philosophy” for many years, and I’ll say again what I’ve said many times: I don’t think such a thing exists. I think . . . I’m skeptical of the notion that there’s such a thing as judicial philosophy. And I think that when we see the term bandied about on the evening news, or on the Op Ed pages, it is simply a . . . It’s a __________. It’s a metaphor. It’s a metaphor for how would you decide cases? What would be the actual outcomes that you would reach? I am a lot less concerned with what outcomes a judge is going to reach than if a judge, like every public official, is going to do their job with a sense of humility. What worries me most in public life is power. What worries me is the exercise of power. And I think that judges in America should recognize – whether they’re on the local municipal court or the Supreme Court of the United States – that _________ with enormous authority, and that they should use it judiciously. Judiciously. I think they should act with a degree of humility. I think that judges should not be in the business . . . This is whether we think of them as conservatives or liberals, as simply trying to say, “At last I’m finally a judge! I can set things right!” That’s the worst attitude for anyone to have, whether it’s a judge, a president, a mayor, whoever it might be. I think that what is called for in people who have great power is great humility. And so whatever it may be that a judge’s philosophy might be, what is important to me is we believe the judge might exercise that philosophy with a degree of humility.
Recorded on: 7/25/07
Judicial philosophy is something made up in the Op-Ed pages, Carter says.
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