Judicial activism on display

I canceled my American Bar Association long before I realized I was a conservative. It had gone so overboard in wacko policies that I simply couldn’t stomach sending it my money. This year, the organization gave Justice Kennedy its highest award, presumably so that he could give a speech — this is a judge’s speech, mind you — stating that the rule of law is simply not in the game when it comes to some higher, individual authority unrelated to legislation, precedent or religious morality:

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was presented with the American Bar Association’s highest award in San Francisco on Monday and said establishing the rule of law around the world requires looking beyond formal legal systems and confronting injustice.

“We’ve learned that we cannot say to some foreign country, ‘Here’s a red-white-and-blue package, the rule of law.’ … The system cannot be easily replicated,” the 71-year-old Sacramento native said after receiving the ABA Medal at the annual meeting of the 413,000-member lawyers’ group.

“In the developing world, there are not enough lawyers, there are not enough paralegals, there are not enough college-educated persons to make such a system work,” Kennedy told delegates of an organization that sponsors thousands of volunteer lawyers working with their counterparts in foreign countries.

In some countries, he said, half to three-quarters of the population works in the “shadow sector,” with no licenses or legal regulation, and half the people have no official birth records. Lawyers can’t merely advise millions of young people in those nations to wait decades while the groundwork for a legal structure is established, Kennedy said.

But he said lawyers are well-suited to educate and recruit those young people to promote law by fighting lawlessness – families in Asia that sell their young daughters into the sex trade, an African nation that charges fees to women who want rape complaints investigated, nations that hold prisoners incommunicado and without charges for a decade, “the ongoing and looming greater disaster in Darfur.”

Lawyers should tell their listeners, “Here is a cause for your passion and your anger and your youth and your energy,” Kennedy said. And he said U.S. lawyers must also realize that “the rule of law cannot stand here unless you address those problems in other nations.”

I appreciate Justice’s Kennedy’s passion, and the keen sense for human suffering that he obviously feels. However, to advocate the overthrow of the rule of law as a way to achieve humane ends is really not what I want to hear coming out of the mouth of a Supreme Court Justice.

Incidentally, I might be less jaundiced and suspicious about Justice Kennedy’s speech were it not for the fact that he is a judge who has been very vocal about abandoning the strict precepts of our American constitution in favor of some international, loosey-goosey style of law, no doubt heavily influenced by the EU and the UN.