The seductive power to do good
Bookworm asks why conservative Supreme Court appointees drift to the left but liberal appointees do not drift to the right. Perhaps it's because power doesn't always corrupt, sometimes it seduces. Chief Justice Warren (an Eisenhower appointee) believed that segregation was wrong (as, I suspect, did most moderate Republicans in 1954). With one stroke of the pen he and his fellow justices could make it illegal. They simply could not resist the temptation to do good, resulting in Brown v. Board of Education. Justice Douglas (a Roosevelt appointee) couldn't fine a right to privacy in the Constitution, but he knew the world would be a better place if birth control was legal. So he fashioned a right to privacy out of whole cloth, using the now famous penumbras and emanations, and authored Griswold v. Connecticut. Justice Blackmun (a Nixon appointee) concluded legalizing abortion was a good and proper step for our society to take and used his position on the Court to accomplish the feat. Roe v. Wade was born, and millions of fetuses were not. For liberal Democrat Justice Douglas, legislating from the bench was nothing new. Most liberals believe that doing good is better than waiting for the legislature to remove what they see as an evil in the law. But for Chief Justice Warren and Justice Blackmun, moderate Republicans, legislating for a good cause was something new, definitely a drift to the left. Yet they couldn't stop themselves. In John Roberts' widely reported case of the 12-year-old girl handcuffed for eating a french fry he demonstrated he understood the difference between foolishness and unconstitutionality. It remains to be seen whether he will remember this distinction when he has lifetime tenure and a blank check to "do good" on the highest court in the land. If not, he'll just be the latest Republican appointee to drift leftward as he is seduced by the power to do good.