Or, a Few Thoughts Regarding the Peremptory Firing of Several Competent Federal Attorneys in Order to Replace Them with Political Hacks

Once upon a time, back when competence actually was valued and we preferred our bureaucrats to be as fair and non-partisan as possible regardless of who was in elected office, the local Bar Associations reviewed the backgrounds and performance records of proposed appointees for judgeships, attorney general and other key legal positions. It typically resulted in recommendations submitted to the President or Governors as to the relative qualifications, integrity and lack of bias of each individual being considered. The mutually agreed upon goal of all involved, at least regarding selecting individuals to manage our legal system, was to put the best person in office rather than merely the most zealous partisan available.

It wasn’t perfect, but since the Bar Associations tended to have vocal members from all parties, it worked pretty well. As members of a profession whose licenses were accountable to standards of ethics beyond mere politics and having experienced roughly the same basic law school education, there at least was a shared recognition the courts and enforcement of our Constitution were critical cornerstones of our democracy requiring principled people in charge who cherished those concepts more than the opinions of party bosses. Usually back then, the Governors or the President acquiesced by picking one of Bar recommended top candidates for the job. If nothing else, that method helped earn the consent of the governed (temporary voting minorities included), which is yet another central support for democracy.

Unfortunately, the efforts of the Bar to assist, along with many other customs and traditions which attempted to protect the justice system from petty politics, have been utterly trashed in recent years. The Bush Administration in particular for some reason seems to be interested in abandoning it altogether, converting (perhaps perverting) the judicial system to its own image. Which, if any of the stories regarding torturing those in custody, violating of habeas corpus, searching without warrants and other potential criminalities prove to be true, is not a very pretty picture.

Perhaps it’s understandable why those occupying the White House at the moment might want to insure their collective thumbs rest heavily on the Scales of Justice. But, it certainly seems like an extremely risky gambit to try. It’s akin to attempting a “shoot the moon” strategy in the card game called Hearts, where the consequences of failure to win it all incurs an extremely heavy penalty. Unless Bush manages to establish a permanent Republican majority or outright dictatorial control of the US, the attempt itself is likely to turn around and bite both him and anyone else running under the Republican banner.

Either way, the public should insist upon a return to a more non-partisan, more objective, method of researching, testing and selecting those individuals who want to be in charge of day-to-day justice in America.

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