Magazine July 19, 2010, Issue

Liberals v. Umpires

(Darren Gygi)
In defense of the chief justice’s metaphor

Umpires are having a rough season. It’s bad enough that their blown calls are getting criticized. Now liberals are calling their very humanity into question.

Judging from their writing, the most pressing project for liberal legal writers right now is to discredit Chief Justice John Roberts’s metaphor of the judge as umpire. The consensus is that the metaphor reduces judges to machines. Adam Cohen, writing in Time, criticizes Roberts’s umpire talk, complaining that conservatives make judging sound like an “easy and uncomplicated” matter of “mechanically applying a rule.” Dahlia Lithwick, writing in Slate, concurs: “Justices can no more be neutral umpires

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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