Supreme Court Humor:

While we all sit waiting for an eventual nominee, I thought I would fill the time with a joke making the rounds in some conservative legal circles:

Q: Do you know the translation for "Gonzales"?

A: It's Spanish for "Souter."

(Insert rimshot).

Justin (mail):
I'm still amused by the concept that Gonzales is a big moderate because he once applied textualism over "stop an abortion at any cost" in interpreting a statute.

Are conservatives now completely abandoning the concept of the judge-must-neutrally-apply-and-not-make-law idea they keep using to attack judges they don't like in rulings they don't like?
7.12.2005 5:54pm
Yes. Yes they are. See also Janice Rogers Brown.
7.12.2005 5:56pm
Souter apparently means cobbler or shoemaker.

Gonzales Definition: A patronymic name meaning "son of Gonzalo." The given name "Gonzalo" comes from the medieval name Gundisalvus, which was the Latin form of a Germanic name composed of the elements "gund," meaning "war" and "salv" which is of unknown meaning.

The joke is wrong.
7.12.2005 6:50pm
Gene Vilensky (www):
I think that part of the issue with Gonzalez is that he is largely unknown as far as his view of the constitution is concerned. This was the issue with Souter, which was sort of also his appeal.

I vaguely know some people who were involved in the WH vetting process of Souter and I understand that 1) WH Chief of Staff, John Sununu who had been governor of NH, I think, was pushing for Souter and 2) They didn't want a Bork situation where there was plenty of material to attack the nominee. They wanted to have an easy confirmation, so they chose someone who was largely an unkown with little to no paper trail. Sununu seemed to be vouching for Souter's conservative credentials.

In the case of Gonzalez, it isn't just the abortion issue. I am a pro-choice libertarian, and I have issues with Gonzalez. I am not sure that he actually approaches legal questions from any particular interpretive philosophy. He is known to be soft on questions like affirmative action as well. Here, you have George Bush vouching for his credentials because Gonzalez is from Texas. Again, very little in terms of a paper trail. No discernible interpretive philosophy. And he is being vouched for by someone powerful in the administration (in this case the pres.). Seems pretty similar to the Souter situation.
7.12.2005 7:01pm
That joke is pretty old, but it raises some interesting points. When someone unearths evidence that, as Attorney General of New Hampshire, Justice Souter authorized the indefinite detention of speeders or authored memos as poor as Gonzales' death penalty memos (see the Atlantic story on this), we can talk. Even in his abortion decision, Gonzales let out enough dicta and subtext to suggest how he'd rule on Roe, i.e. his views "as a parent." (Totally in contrast to the idea that abortion is grounded in personal liberty, the very idea that the parent -- or any other person or entity -- could possibly be relevant to the process.) Gonzales should not be on the Court not because he might use his powers of legal reasoning on his own -- the right's apparent objection to Souter, and it's revealatory that the objections are only to the political consequences of his opinions (or dissents!)and never to the quality of his legal reasoning -- but because Gonzales' entire career has revealed a willingness not to concern himself with the Rule of Law, especially the importance of procedural safeguards.

Calling him a "closet moderate" is probably false, just from the record we have, but the specific comparison to Justice Souter, really insults both Souter's independence, legal skill, and professional dedication to the rule of law.
7.12.2005 7:11pm
Shelby (mail):
C'mpn, people. It's a JOKE. The point is not to map a 1:1 correspondence between the two men; it's to say Gonzalez is a pig in a poke as a Supreme Court nominee.

(Anyone want to parse that analogy, too?)
7.12.2005 8:09pm
Been There, Done That:
The Washington Post reported Gonzalez opposed the DOJ's very sensible opinion holding the Second Amendment secures an individual right.

This issue is likely to reach the Supreme Court in the near future. Gun rights group, i.e., GOA, are organizing against him.

The so-called "collective rights" theory is the absolute zenith of creative constitutionalism. Even Souter might not go for it. If Gonzalez believes that one.....
7.12.2005 9:08pm
David M. Nieporent (www):

The Atlantic story makes the case that the memos were "poor" primarily if one is predisposed to be against capital punishment. While it makes a couple of minor points about the contents of the memos, ultimately, the focus of the article, and Atlantic's complaint, is not that there was something wrong with the memos, but that there was something wrong with Bush's chosen standard for clemency -- actual doubt as to guilt.

If that was Bush's standard -- and the article quotes Bush to that effect, while criticizing him for it -- then it does not make a lot of sense for Gonzales to write memos which focus on (a) supposed mitigating factors like mental capacity, or (b) issues such as ineffective assistance of counsel which had already been litigated.

I am not saying that a governor cannot consider these factors if he wants to; what I am saying is that the Atlantic is concealing a substantive disagreement -- that Bush doesn't show enough "mercy" -- behind a procedural one -- that the memos were too short.
7.13.2005 1:40pm