Do federal judges bristle at news stories that identify the president who appointed them?  Blawgletter has heard that some do.  And we can see why.  Matching judges’ decisions with presidents (and therefore political parties) suggests that politics plays a role in the outcomes. 

The implication often does the judges an injustice.  Chief Justice John Roberts, for example, doesn’t vote for a conservative or Republican outcome in hopes of furthering his own career; he already has the best job in the legal world.

But decisions that run counter to prior party affiliation enhance confidence in results.  Good.

And let’s not go too far in connecting who-appointed-me with political overtones.  Most people, we imagine, take the identity of the appointing president as a proxy for judicial philosophy — liberal, conservative, activist, law-and-order, and the like.  Fine.

The difficulty comes in cases that inject judges into the political process.  One might in good faith wonder, for instance, whether any of the justices who decided Bush v. Gore pondered the impact that his or her vote might have on the Court’s balance and therefore his or her influence in future decisions.

Nor can we ignore the linkage that politicians make in their campaigns between electing them and the judicial appointments they would make.   

Practicing lawyers, including Blawgletter, want to know judges’ pre-appointment political affiliation.  We just do.  And we find their bristling at reports of that affiliation reassuring. 

Those who disagree might consider doing what our 12-year-old son suggests:  Cry me a river, build a bridge, and get over it.

Barry Barnett

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