Sunday, March 26, 2017

I am always skeptical when someone describes a long-time practitioner of a craft who is destined for a leadership position in their as a "real nerd" for the craft. That always strikes me as something that should be a base-line personality trait for someone who seeks to lead or inform others of how to do their job. 

Imagine describing the conductor of a major symphony as a "music nerd", or referring to Einstein as a "physics nerd", or even the cardiologist who is set to operate on you described as a "surgery nerd". I think we'd find it a bit insulting, or a red flag that someone is over-selling it.

This recently came up in the discussion of Goreuch being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. His former colleague on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Michael McConnell, described Gorsuch - in fact most judges - as a "law nerd". 

Given that a "nerd" is someone who can be thought of as someone deeply immersed in and knowledgeable of the nuances, errata and arcane details of a subject, I think we'd all hope that those judges who are charged with deciding the fate of programs, policies and even lives, they would at least clear that hurdle. 

In this case, it's an effort to cheekily deflect legitimate questions and concerns about the judicial and political philosophy of the Republican nominee for the highest court in the land. As the author of the Hobby Lobby opinion and his position on a variety of other decisions regarding the intersection of religion and faith, he is decidedly on the side of those who agitate for a broader "religious" exemption from secular legal constrictions.

The freedom to believe and think what you will is an essential part of a free society. However, a case like Hobby Lobby is an illustration of where those secular/religious distinctions are purposefully muddied in order to redefine the secular/religious separations that have existed in law and in deed for - sometimes - centuries. Separations that protect the secular and devout alike.

It's a chip in the wall that Gorsuch authored and it's certainly a departure from mainstream legal thought. That alone makes Gosuch less like a nerd debating the detailed statistics of a sport to understand an outcome, and more like the coach trying to work the refs to get what he wants.

- Murphy

No comments: