George Greer and “judicial activism”


Ed Kilgore’s New Dem Dispatch yesterday about the Terry Schiavo case—set within a larger argument about activist judges—brings up a point I haven’t heard before:

Now, let’s take a look at those “robed masters” in Florida who Kristol says are trampling on democracy in so egregious a manner that Washington must intervene. Unlike federal judges, all Florida state judges serve limited terms of six years, and can be deposed by voters at the end of each term. Moreover, Florida’s Circuit Court judges, its trial judges, must face a non-partisan election every six years with opponents given every opportunity to run against them.

Consider Circuit Court judge George Greer, whom Kristol basically accuses of deciding, as an act of judicial arrogance, against saving Terri Schiavo’s life. Greer was re-elected by the voters of his circuit last year by a two-to-one margin, despite drawing an opponent who was strongly supported by those angry at his role in the Schiavo case.

Messing around on Google, you get a lot of hits for “George Greer” and “activist judges,” as one might expect, but it’s important to remember that the latter term doesn’t really mean anything. (In case anyone needs a refresher, read Don Herzog here, here, and here as to why, oddly enough, there’s no “one obvious interpretation” of the Constitution.) This goes double in Greer’s case. The courts approved of his decision. Voters approved of his decision. It was all part of a well-functioning democratic process. Obviously there will be people who disagree, and that’s fine, but in this case nearly everyone, it seems, save for Tom DeLay and some hyperactive right-wingers in Congress thought Greer did a fine job handling a hard case. So who, pray tell, is the activist here?

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