Evolving Standards of Decency

On this Easter Sunday when we should all again be reminded that there is such a thing as truth and truth is more than something in the eye of the beholder, we should rededicate ourselves to fighting for conservative judges who put aside their beliefs in favor of constitutional standards.

On that note, see Bill Kristol.

So our judges deserve some criticism. But we should not be too harsh. For example, it would be wrong to suggest, as some conservatives have, that our judicial elite is systematically biased against “life.” After all, they have saved the life of Christopher Simmons. It would be wrong to argue, as some critics have, that our judges systematically give too much weight to the husband’s wishes in situations like Terri Schiavo’s. After all, our judges have for three decades given husbands (or fathers) no standing at all to participate in the decision whether to kill their unborn children. It would be wrong to claim that our judges don’t take seriously legislation passed by the elected representatives of the people. After all, our judges are committed to upholding the “rule of law”–though not, perhaps, the rule of actual laws passed by actual lawmakers. And it would be wrong to accuse our judges of being heartless. After all, Judges Carnes and Hull of the 11th U.S. Circuit told us, “We all have our own family, our own loved ones, and our own children.”

You really should read the whole thing. While you and I might disagree on Terry Schiavo, surely we can agree on this.

Thank God for our robed masters. If it weren’t for them, Christopher Simmons might soon be executed. In September 1993, seven months shy of his 18th birthday, Simmons decided it would be interesting to kill someone. He told his buddies they could get away with it because they were still minors. He broke into the house of Shirley Crook in Jefferson County, Missouri, bound her hands and feet, drove her to a bridge, covered her face with tape, and threw her into the Meramec River, where she drowned. He confessed to the crime, and was sentenced to death according to the laws of Missouri.

Last month the Supreme Court saved Simmons’s life. The citizens, legislators, and governor of Missouri (and those of 19 other states) had, it turned out, fallen grievously and unconstitutionally behind “the evolving standards of decency that mark a maturing society.” Five justices decided that the Constitution prevented anyone under the age of 18 from being sentenced to death. So Christopher Simmons will live.

The conduct of the federal judiciary is appalling. They have chosen to substitute their ideas of decency over the standards of decency of the American people. Some might argue that they are saving us from ourselves. I disagree. They are forcing down a path we did not democratically choose to go.

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Erick Erickson

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