— by Eleanor Levie
There is an important issue being squeezed off the radar by equally important conversations on the budget, guns, and Israel’s survival: We need to focus on what is occurring in our nation’s courts. Here are my reasons why:
Full list after the jump.
10. U.S. Jews take our core values and constitutional rights seriously.
As Jews with a history of discrimination and oppression, how could we not? Remember, the Supreme Court hears only about 80-90 cases a year. All other important decisions cited across the country as relevant and applicable come down from the federal courts. And these decisions often chip away at our liberties and erode our rights. We have to stay vigilant.
9. Best chance to influence the process of government and score an advocacy victory.
All we need to do is persuade our Senators to vote on fair and open-minded judges for the federal bench. Advise and consent on the President’s judiciary nominations is one of the rare things the Senate does all by itself, without worrying about the House and its current inability to get anything done. Dialing Senators Casey and Toomey!
8. Two words: Lifetime Appointments.
If we elect a lousy person to the House of Representatives at least we can throw the bum out in two years. Not so with the federal courts where unless you commit a crime or suffer the final phases of dementia, you get to sit in judgement as long as you want. Approximately 40% of the judges sitting on federal courts are people appointed by President George W. Bush, in his mold. White Christian men in the prime of their lives, who tend to favor corporations over the individual and the environment, and whose evangelical views trump science and matters that should be private. The decisions of these people who do not share our values will affect us, our children, and our grandchildren for decades to come. We can’t do anything about that, but we can prevent it from continuing to happen.
7. Justice, justice thou shalt pursue.
Our sacred book of laws, the Torah, tells us to continually elevate fairness and expect judicial open-mindedness and independence. That means getting pushy for judges who see justice the way we do.
6. None of us is God.
We’re only human, so yes, mistakes get made. But in our democracy, it’s our civil right to seek redress when necessary. The Courts are our lifeline, and our last line of defense.
5. You just never know…
You never know when you might need your day in court, which is your right as an American. We need to hold fast to that right if we are to continue to live in a land that promises justice for all, no matter your religion, wealth, power — or lack thereof.
4. Justice delayed is justice denied.
President Obama’s attempts to fill vacancies with highly qualified, diverse people consistently meet with partisan obstructionism. Many deserving candidates who are admired for their scholarship and experience are willing to serve their country at salaries well below what they earn at corporate law firms. Go figure. But we are punishing them, making them put their lives and careers on hold while they wait months for an up or down vote. Not only that, but judicial vacancies throughout the federal court system are straining the capacity of the federal courts to administer justice in an adequate and timely manner. So cases back up, and sitting judges on senior status work well past what their health and energy allows. Worst of all, the parties involved in a federal legal case wait months to get court dates.
3. Money, money, money!
Judicial vacancies and the case backlogs that result are costly to businesses with lawsuits pending and hurt our economy. As feeling, caring Jews, we can only imagine the severe stress and hardship suffered by an individual whose life savings go to pay lawyers’ fees that increase with court delays.
2. Is tikkun olam — repairing the world — important or isn’t it?
Have you noticed how broken our judicial system is? Getting it repaired will take lots of us willing to speak out — especially for those who cannot speak for themselves.
1. The Courts make the decisions that shape our lives.
Their authority determines whether we have clean air and water. Access to reproductive health care and family planning. Gender equality in jobs, paychecks, the military. Separation of religion and state. Immigration reform. Civil rights. Affirmative Action. Integrated and equal public schools. LGBT rights and marriage equality. And much, much more.