Essay / Culture

Trial Judge Takes Me On

One of the joys of doing the Hewitt show is the email! I will not pass on the nice email (though it made my day) or the one email that said I was manifestly more foolish and senile than Robert Byrd! (You have to love the internet!)Here was a thoughtful caller with whom I did not complete a discussion. I append his email unedited, but with identifying features removed so zealots do not bother him: I am a Christian state trial court judge in x. I called onThurs, waited for 45 minutes, finally got on, and my phone pooped out! Dr. John Mark did an excellent job, and obviously raised a lotof interest in the Terry Schaivo issue. I was sorry to drop off the line, because I had much more tosay. I hope you will pass this on to Dr. Reynolds for any comments hemight have. I agree with much of Dr. Reynold’s (and I am sure your)position. The culture of death IS on the march, and the absence, in thatdeath community, of the gift of faith prevents their view of eternity,and causes them to concentrate on this earthly life as their onlyheaven. I am called upon at least monthly to face a “Terry Schaivo”decision, as are literally hundreds of both elected and appointed statetrial court judges across our nation. I stand for election every sixyears. By conviction, conscience and much prayer and pastoral advice, Ihave arrived at the same position as Dr. Reynolds. Removal of artificiallife support is biblically supportable, but removal of nutrition andhydration is not. Each case is viewed as it comes, but that generalprinciple applies as a default. Dr. Reynolds view of the judiciary, though, is not supportable.As I said on the program, man has NEEDED judges ever since the fall, tomake the most difficult decisions which confront him. To my knowledge,NO biblical pattern describes any other selection process thanappointment, as opposed to election. Every historic Christian confessionis in accord, at least with the need for civil magistrates. Judges havenever been experts in all things, and frankly were not Biblicallydesigned as such. Judges are, and always have been, society’s means ofdealing with insoluble problems. Dr. Reynolds asked me if there were any questions judges shouldnot be allowed to decide. My answer is that judges do not decide whichcases confront them. Others BRING us cases, and our task is to decidethem. I am not allowed to say ” Nope, not this one, this is God’s call.”ALL my cases are God’s call, and some judges realize that more thanothers. There are good judges, bad judges and a few that recognize thattheir power is granted by He who grants life and breath and all things,including appointment and election. I also can’t believe that Dr. Reynolds would believe that Terryor anyone else will die even one minute sooner than He has decreed. Yes,the pain of her family is good instruction, as is the Pope’s andeventually mine, and yes, God rejoices in the death of His saints, andyes, it is better to be in the house of mourning than the house of joy,because that is where eternality confronts unbelievers. But Hisappointed time, affected by a husband, parent or judge, will still beperfect. Only a few things truly evolve, but the law is one of them. Theliberal/conservative; strict constructionist/ activist; culture oflife/culture of death is best viewed as a pendulum, slowly andoccasionally, as it passes, accurately reflecting the culture of themoment. I hate abortion and I hate divorce, and I hate the currentsecular bent of the culture, but I (and many others) are called to sitin the gate, interpose justice as we are able, and attempt to serve ourLord in the capacity to which He has called us. The Constitution is not wrong because we see many things wedisagree with. The decision making process is not inappropriate becausemany civil magistrates don’t confess Christ. The election or appointmentof judges is not better or worse because we disagree with decisions thatare made. What IS wrong is unbelief, and what is wrong is fear. We MUSTcontinue to put Christ on display in all that we do, and howeverimperfectly we show His love and justice, we must not, as we seek tochange the culture, use the same tools that temporal man would use todeny eternity. To demonize the judiciary is not greatly different thanthe death culture’s demonization of people of faith. Until the perfectcomes, we must be builders of the imperfect, using the patterns He, ourLogos, has given us. I am deeply grateful for your work, and for Dr. Reynolds’. Judge XHere is a judge that would have my vote. I am not sure that we disagree very much. If he thinks I don’t respect judges or the judicial branch, then he misunderstood me. Why some of my best friends are judges!I do not intend to demonize the judicial branch per se, but the demonic judges who misuse their power to do evil. Sadly, I think that in many places there are many, many bad judges. Of course in some cases good judges are called to interpret very bad laws so that the problem is the legislature not the good judge. That is not the case in the Terri Schiavo problem. The executive and legislative branches have made it clear that they wish Schiavo to live.I believe that this one judge in Florida (who is elected) represents a problem for the judicial branch. He taints the whole by his actions.I think there are some issues beyond the scope of the civil magistrate. Judges should not have the power to kill innocent human life. Unelected bad judges on higher courts have given them that power. I am glad that some judges do not use it.I believe there are issues of jurisdiction here. Do judges have jurisdiction over every possible question a citizen might wish to bring to them? My point is not that the judicial branch (which should remain independent) is bad, but that such decisions are beyond their sphere of authority. If we must determine when life begins and ends (and there are some difficult ethical calls) that authority should be left to the lawmakers who are most directly accountable to the people.Granted this will still leave the job of interpretation of these laws to judges (as it should), but that is a much more limited role than that of a judge who can find a right to kill unborn babies in the Constitution.Bad laws make for hard decisions, I am sure. Leglislatures should clarify bad or unclear laws when it makes the job of a judge hard.Some judges (like our thoughtful writer above) are elected, as I pointed out on the show. However, the broad scope of what can be taken to court and the powers of the courts, have been decided by the Supreme Court of the United States or by the highest courts in the respective states. These men are much less representative of the culture of the state than the legislatures. When they legislate from the bench, they reduce the respect I have for this vital part of our government. Our writer does not do this. The judge in the Schiavo case did.This should infuriate every citizen.If we had more judges on the bench like the one who wrote me, there would be fewer horrors like the Terri Schiavo case. The voters of Florida should note this when going to the polls for the judges they can elect. They should also remember the power to appoint judges when they vote for the chief executive.

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