I truly don’t understand how we end up with judges like this…don’t they have to be vetted or something? It doesn’t matter which political party their rulings favor, or what level of court they’re at, it seems like a basic job requirement of someone who wants to be a judge should be “have a basic understanding of how the law works”.
Here’s what I mean by that: Legislators write the laws. The state or federal executive signs the laws and is responsible for overseeing enforcement of them. Judges interpret the laws to ensure that they are consistent, understandable, constitutional, and applied as written.
So, I’m often flabbergasted when a judge, whether in the majority opinion or the dissent, makes it plainly obvious that they don’t understand what their role is.
I could cite examples all day long including the original Rowe Vs. Wade decision, All the rulings upholding the rampant abuse of the interstate commerce clause over the years, the dissent in the recent abortion and second amendment rulings etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum.
But the one that brought this to the forefront of my mind today is the dissent to a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling determining that absentee ballot drop boxes are, indeed, illegal under Wisconsin law.
“We hold the documents are invalid because ballot drop boxes are illegal under Wisconsin statutes,” Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote in the majority opinion. “An absentee ballot must be returned by mail or the voter must personally deliver it to the municipal clerk at the clerk’s office or a designated alternate site.”
Here’s how Wisconsin law section 6.87(4)(b)1. actually states it:
The envelope shall be mailed by the elector, or delivered in person, to the municipal clerk issuing the ballot or ballots.
The way the law is written, the only possible conclusion a competent jurist could possibly reach is that anonymous dropoffs of absentee ballots in an unmonitored drop box is illegal.
But it wasn’t a unanimous opinion. In fact, it was a 4-3 decision. Considering how clearly this is spelled out in the law, how could it have possibly not been unanimous? I can only conclude that the three dissenters don’t understand how the law works and what their role is in that system.
As with so many other decisions like this, the dissenting opinion bears that out.
The dissent goes to great pains to illustrate that the term “municipal clerk” is a title, not a location. That if the legislature intended for the ballot to be delivered to the municipal clerk’s office, it would have said as much, but that by saying the ballot is to be delivered to the “municipal clerk”, the proper interpretation is that the ballot can be delivered to the municipal clerk or a representatives of said clerk, at any location…including drop boxes.
The problem is, the dissent completely ignores a key word in the law: “personally”. The elector must personally deliver the ballot. I don’t care what planet you live on, dropping something in an unattended box to be picked up later is pretty much the opposite of “personally delivering” it. When I put a piece of mail in the mailbox and raise the flag, am I personally delivering that letter to its recipient? For that matter, could I even be considered to have personally delivered the letter to the Mailman? I think not.
What the entire dissent boils down to is summarized in the second paragraph of it:
Although it pays lip service to the import of the right to vote, the majority/lead opinion has the practical effect of making it more difficult to exercise it. Such a result, although lamentable, is not a surprise from this court. It has seemingly taken the opportunity to make it harder to vote or to inject confusion into the process whenever it has been presented with the opportunity.
In other words…it doesn’t matter what the law actually says, what matters is how the law is inconveniencing people.
The dissent basically says the law is wrong because they don’t like it.
That’s not a judge’s job. If the law makes it inconvenient for the voters, the voters should lobby the legislators to change the law, or elect new legislators who will. A judge just arbitrarily ruling that the law doesn’t mean what it plainly says is the very definition of judicial activism.
So how do these judges who clearly don’t understand their role continue to be elevated to higher and higher courts? Heck, I don’t understand how they can still be lawyers. When you clearly don’t understand the most basic premise of your chosen vocation, I’d think you wouldn’t last long.
Does a plumber who connects the faucets to the sewer line keep getting promoted? Does a Veterinary doctor who writes prescriptions for people go unchallenged? Does a psychiatrist who tells people it’s not crazy of them to think they’re a woman trapped in a man’s body continue to get new patients?…oh…wait a minute. Bad example.