ONE JUDGE. Our country is bitterly divided over the nomination of one judge to fill one seat on one court. Think about that. This began long before the recent allegations came to light. Our political leaders have, since Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court this summer, described this as a fight for the future of our country. But should the appointment of one judge really cause such significant social division?
In our constitutional order, judges were meant to have a modest role, applying the law to the facts of individual cases. Alexander Hamilton assured his readers in Federalist 78 that the judiciary was designed to be the “least dangerous branch.” But over time, increasingly political judges have assumed an increasingly significant role over American life. As judges began to act more like legislators, is it any wonder that the American people and their representatives treat them so?
Judges on the Wisconsin Supreme Court have not been immune from this. Many rightly lament increasingly polarized judicial races in Wisconsin. But this is inevitable when judges assume a role in public life not consistent with our constitutional order.
There is no place for partisan politics on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. While courts must not shrink back from enforcing the guarantees actually in our constitution, the constitution does not invite the judiciary to opine on every political and moral question facing our society. Judges wear black robes, not capes.
Our constitution establishes a beautiful and brilliant system of government. It’s about time we try it again. The long road to renewed respect for the judicial branch begins when the judiciary more faithfully carries out, with integrity and humility, the more modest role laid out by our founding charter.