"Respect for the rule of law is deeply embedded in our American experience, but it is not embedded in our DNA," Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall told the graduating class of Brandeis University in Waltham yesterday.
Of course, she was alluding to the attacks from our POTUS and from local crazies. The idea that judges are negatively activist when they do their jobs has led to the most irrational view of the judicial system. Anyone who took a civics class learned that legislators, executives branch members and judges each play their roles.
She had no problem with criticisms of judges or their decisions. However, "I worry when people of influence use vague, loaded terms like 'judicial activism' to skew public debate or to intimidate judges," she said. "I worry when judicial independence is seen as a problem to be solved and not a value to be cherished."
Marshall was a voice of reason in this otherwise emotional atmosphere following her court's interpretation of Massachusetts law allowing same-sex marriages starting a year ago. She noted that "Our courts function as a pressure valve to defuse political and social tension." She was calm considering recent threats against judges here and the murder of the family of a U.S. District Judge in Chicago.
Most tellingly and accurately, she concluded, "Individual rights and human dignity are vulnerable when they depend on protection on the will of the majority or the good faith of those in power."
Try, for just a moment, to imagine the current White House being as reasonable or fair.