Subscribe to LexTalk to stay on top of today’s legal issue and trends.
Catapult Your Career |
Industry Insights & Trends |
Product Training & Tips
Photo Credit: spirit of america / Shutterstock.com
It was 3 years ago today, John Roberts Jr. was sworn in as the 17th Supreme Court Chief Justice. And, since the Roberts hearings, the umpire metaphor has become synonymous with judicial restraint with the idea that judges are merely arbiters, and their job is not to set aside precedent and create law but to decide cases on the basis of established law. To do this, the argument goes, judges must check their personal beliefs and biases (not the same thing) at the door of the courtroom, just as an umpire should bring no opinion about how baseball ought to be played or rooting interest to the diamond.
“Judges are like umpires,” Judge Roberts declared in the opening remarks to his own confirmation hearings. “Umpires don’t make the rules; they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role.”
Judge Roberts was far from the first to make the comparison, which dots the literature of the 20th century, legal and otherwise. According to the article Umpires v. Judges, Roberts said “activism is when a judge allows his personal views on a policy issue to infect his judgment.”
Thus does the umpire metaphor misleadingly jumble together the ideas of belief, bias and activism, as though all personal viewpoints are somehow tainted for being personal? Judges with personal beliefs make objective decisions all the time, after all.
The article goes on to say that the judge-umpire analogy may be unfair to both judges and umpires because just like in baseball, “the Constitution is a living, breathing document.”
The above article is an excerpt from The New York Times.
You never went to see an umpire? Maybe you weren't studying laws and ordinances then. What did you go to a game for?