Judging the judges, ‘Supreme’ and ordinary

I have never knowingly been inside the home of a judge.

Not for 50 years, since Lisa Griffith–the daughter of Judge Griffith–and I graduated from John Muir Jr. High School in Los Angeles and I quit my L.A. Herald Express paper route where I delivered to their home, have I even known where a judge lives. But that’s fine with me.

I have however, been kicked out of some pretty fancy parties, and been in some very distinguished homes.

Of course I went in and out of the White House for 30 years. I’ve been in a number of presidential palaces–in South Africa, Nigeria, Mali, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates, among others. I’ve been to the Kabah in the Holy City, Mecca. I’ve been (more than once) in the Dessert Tent-homes of Libyan Leader Muammar Qaddafi. On numerous occasions I’ve visited the homes of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. I’ve been personally acquainted with a couple of “Old Money” Millionaires, and have visited their homes. I was a guest in the home of an heir to the South African gold miner who inspired the movie character “Goldfinger.” And I rubbed shoulders with Michael Jackson at Neverland, but I’ve never knowingly been inside the home of a judge.

I once had an acquaintance whose father was a judge. And I once flew home from Africa after judging Nigerian legislative elections seated next to a retired D.C. judge. But except for a few political fund-raisers, I’ve only been in the homes of two or three lawyers that I can recall.

Not so with doctors and various other “Bourgies.” I’m a member of a social group that meets once a month in the homes of members that has goo-gobs of doctors in it. I’ve visited various newspaper publishers, broadcasters and college professors, including the home of the illustrious John Kenneth Galbraith, but I’ve never knowingly been in the home of a judge. And to tell you the truth, I don’t think my life is any poorer from not knowing any judges.

I believe judges and “certain” lawyers must intermarry, so as to keep their Tribe’s bloodline pure. Unlike doctors, whose ability to empathize with the plight of ordinary people can be an asset to a successful “bedside manner,” if judges get too cozy with ordinary people it might skew their feelings too much in favor of the weak, the poor, the least of these my brethren. We can’t have that. After all, the law’s job (and judges are the chief custodians of the law) is clearly intended to always favor the side which represents “the money.”

Why else would Landlord-Tenant Court automatically give the plaintiff-landlord (money) a default judgment against the poor tenant during the roll call, where every other civil proceeding requires proof that the defendant has been legally “served?” Why else is there no “justice” at all in the “criminal justice system”–just us?

So, imagine my surprise when I heard Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) say something utterly earthshaking May 3 on “This Week” on ABC News: “I would like to see more people from outside the judicial monastery, somebody who has had some real-life experience, not just as a judge…” said Sen. Leahy. Why, you could have knocked me over with a feather. A really “big-time,” legal “A-List” person talking about President Barack Obama’s upcoming appointment to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, and sounding to me like he had read my mind.

Thank goodness for Sen. Leahy’s comments. Even if the president does (and probably will) choose an “insulated” legal-eagle from within the “judicial monastery,” at least I am comforted to know that it’s not just me thinking that their breed is a bit too aloof, and that it might be a good thing if someone from outside the black-robed and powdered-wigged, legal monastic orders of Harvard and Yale law schools, might once again be considered for an appointment to the Supreme Court.

More than 40 years ago I interviewed Black Panther Party attorney Charles Garry in his office in San Francisco. He said he was a law clerk in the office of Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, who had a guiding principle: “If I make an error, let me err on the side of mercy.”

Mr. President, that’s the kind of Supreme Court Justice I’d like to see.

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