Bench Memos

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Collins on Pryor


Here’s the Washington Post on Sen. Collins’ explanation for her vote against Pryor (as opposed to her votes for Owen and Brown):

Collins said in a statement that she was worried about Pryor’s temperament and “respect for the judicial system.” She noted that he once said of a Supreme Court death penalty ruling, “This issue should not be decided by nine octogenarian lawyers.”
Some have wondered whether Collins wasn’t really figuring that many Maine voters would welcome a vote against someone who was both a Southern white male and a devout Catholic. (The fact that Collins herself is Catholic would not weigh decisively against, and might even weigh in favor of, such a calculus.) So it’s good to hear a reason that doesn’t indulge racist, sexist, and religious prejudice.

But how good is Collins’ stated reason?

A proper respect for the judicial system must be reconciled with a proper respect for the power of American citizens to exercise their rights of self-governance. When judges overstep their bounds, political officials (Pryor was Alabama’s attorney general at the time of his comment) have an obligation to respond with vigor. Pryor himself acknowledged this his particular phrasing was “overheated political rhetoric,” but that is a far more minor offense than that of our many senators who celebrate or acquiesce in judicial power grabs.


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