Court Jester Awards

National | Just how important are nominations for federal judgeships? The Family Research Council recently released its 1997 Court Jester Awards, which prove that judicial activism is no laughing matter.

Issue: "Dirty little secret," Aug. 23, 1997

**red_square** The Out of Order Award, "given for a decision in which a judge finds citizens incompetent to manage their local affairs." This award went to Judge Russell G. Clark of Missouri, who has personally run the Kansas City School District for the past 21 years-and spent $1.7 billion of taxpayers' money in the process. Judge Clark ruled in 1976 that Kansas City schools were racially segregated and required large-scale capital improvements in order to create a "magnet district" that would attract white students.

Since the locals couldn't be trusted to bring the schools up to his standards, Judge Clark gave himself the authority to approve every change. Over the years, that has included such minute decisions as what walls to paint and what color carpet to put down.

**red_square** The Overruled! Award, "given for a decision in which a judge makes a mockery of democracy." In 1996, when California voters approved a referendum barring affirmative action, Judge Thelton Henderson dissented. Despite the fact that a majority of

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Californians-including many blacks and Hispanics-voted to create a color-blind state, Judge Henderson ruled that minority set-asides must go on.

**red_square** The See-No-Evil Award, "given for a decision in which a judge turns a blind eye to crime-insisting that criminals are victims of society." Judge Rosemary Barkett of Florida's supreme court won this award for her "shameless coddling of convicted criminals." Among the half-dozen examples: Judge Barkett refused to impose the death penalty on a man who had raped, beaten, and murdered a woman who was seven months pregnant. He was not worthy of death, she reasoned, because of the "emotional deprivation" he had endured throughout his life.

**red_square** The Invisible Ink Award, "given for a decision in which a judge sees invisible words in the Constitution." For inventing the fundamental right to be killed with help from one's doctor, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt wins the prize for reading into the Constitution. Try as they might, other judges-including the Second Circuit Court of Appeals-simply couldn't find Judge Reinhardt's purported right to die.

Nick Eicher
Nick Eicher

Nick lives in St. Louis, loves the Blues (as in the NHL), is executive producer of WORLD Radio, and co-hosts WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickEicher.


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