The issue in Chisom, stripped of all its complexities, hinged on the inclusion vel non of elected state judges within § 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which as amended in 1982 condemns voting rules whose effect is to abridge the right of members of protected classes. Section 2 is triggered when minority voters "have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice." The crucial question was whether the term representatives included elected judges.
Six Justices, led by John Paul Stevens, concluded that § 2 of the Voting Rights Act does indeed cover judicial elections. Justice Scalia violently disagreed. The portion of his dissent that caught my attention, 501 U.S. at 410-11 (some citations omitted), reads as follows:
There is little doubt that the ordinary meaning of "representatives" does not include judges, see Webster's Second New International Dictionary 2114 (1950). The Court's feeble argument to the contrary is that "representatives" means those who "are chosen by popular election." On that hypothesis, the fan-elected members of the baseball All-Star teams are "representatives" -- hardly a common, if even a permissible, usage. Surely the word "representative" connotes one who is not only elected by the people, but who also, at a minimum, acts on behalf of the people. Judges do that in a sense -- but not in the ordinary sense. As the captions of the pleadings in some States still display, it is the prosecutor who represents "the People"; the judge represents the Law -- which often requires him to rule against the People."In the grand tradition of the great baseball fable, Casey at the Bat, I'd like to strike out Justice Scalia with three hard, fast ones:
- In construing the meaning of a term added to the Voting Rights Act in 1982, how could Justice Scalia defensibly rely on a single citation to a single dictionary that predated the disputed amendments by 32 years? Not to put too sharp a point on it, but a person born the year of the Webster's Second cited by Justice Scalia could have served as a legislative page to the Congress that passed the original Voting Rights Act. The entire affair reeks of dictionary-shopping. What an unseemly way to establish the "plain meaning" of a controverted term.
- Yeah, yeah, the legislative and executive branches can be said to represent "The People," while the judiciary can be said to represent instead "The Law" . . . in a federal system that gives judges life tenure and salary protection in order to insulate them from the rough and tumble of electoral politics. But Louisiana in Chisom, along with many other states, chooses to have an elected judiciary. A healthy respect for the policymaking prerogatives of the states demands that states and their subdivisions be given the freedom to structure their judiciary without regard to the federal model. And a healthy respect for the Voting Rights Act, especially after that statute's overtly expansionist 1982 amendments, demands that judicial elections be held to the same standard as other elections under state and local law
- Justice Scalia's final misstep is, from the sabermetric perspective that permeates the entire Jurisdynamics Network, utterly unforgivable. How could Justice Scalia even think of suggesting that members of baseball's All-Star teams are not representatives? I have searched in vain for Major League Baseball's official word on this, but the word of Wikipedia makes an adequate substitute: "One of the most controversial aspects of the player selection process is a rule that each team has to have at least one representative on its league's All-Star roster." Not knowing the infield fly rule, the balk rule, or (gag, ack, choke) the designated hitter rule can be forgiven. Indeed, the despicable DH rule renders most of my students unable to appreciate the intricacies of the double switch and the sheer beauty of the suicide squeeze. But muff the All-Star Game's representative rule? Unbelievable.
Strike three, Justice Scalia. Yer out!
Somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;Justice Antonin Scalia? Don't look for him in Cooperstown.
The band is playing somewhere and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere folks are laughing and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Washington -- mighty Scalia has struck out.