Conservative jurist shows that law trumps own beliefs

Conservative jurist shows that law trumps own beliefs

The following editorial appeared in Friday's Washington Post:

"President Ronald Reagan must be spinning in his grave," exclaimed Maureen Martin of the Heartland Institute. A "Lazy Endorsement of Obamacare," read the headline on an article on National Review Online. A "strange opinion," concluded a Wall Street Journal editorial.

These reactions were to a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that upheld the constitutionality of the individual mandate, a key provision of President Obama's health-care plan that requires most individuals to purchase insurance coverage. For many conservatives, adding insult to the injury of the ruling, released Tuesday, was its author: Laurence H. Silberman, a senior judge on the federal appeals court.

A former official in the Nixon administration, a Reagan appointee to the bench and a Federalist Society favorite, Judge Silberman is one of the most respected and conservative jurists. He penned - to the delight of the right - the D.C. Circuit's 2007 decision that struck down the District of Columbia's gun laws, concluding that the Second Amendment recognized an individual right to keep and bear arms.

That this conservative luminary voted to uphold the constitutionality of the most controversial aspect of the president's health-care proposal is welcome news - and not simply because we agree with this result.

Judges should never decide a case based on personal beliefs or political preferences. Yet as challenges to the health-care law made their way through the courts, a disturbing pattern emerged: Democratic-appointed trial judges were more likely to uphold the law than their Republican-appointed counterparts were. Although judges on the courts of appeals were less predictable, the pattern remained. The conclusion drawn by some: Judges were nothing more than politicians in robes. Judge Silberman's principled ruling is an emphatic and laudable repudiation of that notion.

The opinion applies Supreme Court precedent to conclude that the Constitution gives the federal government broad authority to regulate interstate commerce. It rightly concludes that the national health-care market and the individual mandate fit within this authority.

It would be hard to imagine a Sen. Silberman voting for a sweeping government health-care mandate. But Judge Silberman took seriously his obligation to allow only the Constitution and case law to dictate the result - even if it clashes with his personal political views.

Catch the latest in Opinion

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News