Tipping Back the Scales

TIPPING BACK THE SCALES…. The politicization of the federal judiciary — the courts, the Deparment of Justice, U.S. Attorneys’ offices — was one of the more offensive outrages of the Bush era. It’s also one of the most consequential.

In a fascinating new piece in the print edition of the Washington Monthly, Rachel Morris explores what went wrong as “loyal Bushies” pushed justice to the right, and what President Obama will have to do to correct the imbalance.

The cronyism and ineptitude that pervaded the Justice Department in the past eight years may have dealt this project a mortal blow — thanks to the [Bradley Schlozman, former deputy assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division], a stint in the Bush DOJ will probably not be considered a stepping stone to greater things. But even if the conservative legal movement advances no further, its successes will reverberate for years to come. Republican appointees now comprise more than 60 percent of appeals court judges, with majorities on ten of the thirteen appellate courts, while Democratic appointees control just one. Many of these Republican appointees are not moderates or pragmatists, but talented, unbendable conservatives. A study by the law professor (and now Office of Management and Budget official) Cass Sunstein found that the judges appointed by Republican presidents from Reagan onward were more consistently conservative in their rulings than those appointed by Eisenhower, Nixon, or Ford. Already the Supreme Court has lurched to the right since the arrival of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, both Reagan DOJ alumni.

Since Barack Obama won the election, many have wondered what he will do to repair the damage that Schlozman and his allies inflicted on the DOJ’s integrity. But there is another important question to be asked. Meese’s inventive use of the Justice Department ultimately set American jurisprudence on a rightward course. Could Obama use his Justice Department to turn it back?

For all of our sake, he better.

It’s a great piece. Take a look.