I nearly fainted the other day while watching Ann Coulter on Larry King (Joy Behar subbing in). I found myself actually agreeing with Coulter. I think she is one of the most despicable human beings on the planet. She is intellectually dishonest. She is mean. Nothing matters to her but herself, her agenda, and generating money and publicity for herself and her agenda. Reason and evidence mean nothing to her. Kindness, decency, integrity and humanity are not words in her vocabulary, or things about which she cares. When I say I find her despicable, I don’t mean that in a good way. I would never purchase one of her novels, not because I think they are bad, but because, like not spending money in South Africa during apartheid, I wouldn’t want to put a dime in her pocket. So the fact that I found myself agreeing with her made me nauseous.
I do not find Orrin Hatch despicable. I mostly don’t agree with him but I have no doubt he is a good and decent person. There are people I respect who are friendly with him and politically close to him.
I agree with both of them because I too feel this “empathy” idea for judges is wrong. A judge should be independent and aloof. Would you want someone who is empathetic with the victims of crime to decide 4th amendment issues? Not if you were the criminal and not if you believe the 4th amendment must protect everyone from unreasonable searches and seizures. Would you want someone empathetic to the plight or background of the criminal if you were advocating the death penalty in a case? No. Would you want a judge empathetic with the victims plight in the same case? Not if you were the criminal or a person advocating against the death penalty. Empathy is very much a double edged sword and has no place in judicial determination. Justice is blind. The law is blind and has to do with the law not justice. If the legislature has failed to correctly draft a statute a judge can not substitute his/her judgment on any side, wherever their empathy lies.
Think of this. A 21 year old man savagely rapes and murders an 18 month old baby. He is tried and convicted and sentenced to death. Where would you have the judges empathy lie? With the baby and his family? How about with the man who himself was a victim of repeated sexual abuse as a child? How about with the fact that the man was black, grew up in a terrible environment and was never given the chance to gain any sense of morality, when it comes to abuse? Should empathy dictate whether the punishment fits the crime? As tragic as this case was (it is a real case), should not the punishment fit the crime not the criminal? Can society be seen to be empathetic to a child molester and murderer? Empathy does have its place. But the judiciary is not where it belongs.