Don Sherfick

Fair Courts Matter - the whys and hows

Filed By Don Sherfick | November 18, 2007 7:45 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: civil liberties, judges, Lambda Legal

Lambda Legal has recently come out with Fair Courts Matter, A Democracy in Action Guide, which is a quick and pretty layperson-friendly civics lesson focused on the importance of maintaining a fair judiciary system at both the federal as well as all levels of state government.

I'm one of those folks who supports the thought that legislatures ought to make law, and judges simply interpret them. I well understand how the concept of "judge-made law" can sound anti-democratic. But I also know how people on the Right frequently twist that concept to mean that lawmakers and members of the executive branch ought to be able to ignore equal protection and other principles in our constitutions in the name of "the people's will".

The Lambda offering features the work of a number of talented cartoonists in illustrating a "Life Without Fair Courts", describing a number of landmark decisions in a number of LGBT and other civil rights areas. Without the constitutional protections they safeguarded, the liberties we enjoy today would not be part of the American landscape. You can view and download the 28-page booklet here (it's an 8 megabite PDF file). And take a look at other information concerning Lambda Legal's important and commendable work. It's all well worth the time.

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Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | November 18, 2007 9:34 AM

This is a great resource. Thanks for sharing it Don!

I agree - great resource. I downloaded it to check it out.

We posted on Lambda's search for cartoonists for this project too - so I was glad to see how it turned out!

The other problem with the criticism of "judge-made law" is that it relies on the assumption that the meaning of statutes or constitutional provisions is not always clear and unambiguous. Despite the best efforts of legislators or the drafters of the state and federal constitution, language is often unclear. Plus many situations arise that the drafters did not anticipate having to deal with. Regardless of how much some people wish it wasn't so, it is the job of the courts to decide NOT what the law is or should be, BUT what the law as enacted by others means. That has been the job of the courts in tripartite system of government based on the concept of checks and balances since the U.S. Supreme Court's 1803 decision in Marbury v. Madison.

There will always be disagreements about what the law means. It is essential for everyone, LGBT and otherwise, that we have judges who can, and will, resolve those disputes fairly and with as little personal bias as is humanly possible.