Commentary Magazine


Guess the Judge’s Background

As readers of conservative blogs and magazines know, the right punditocracy has a game of “guess the party.” When a Republican does something bad, the mainstream media begin the story “Republican Sam Smith …” When a Democrat does it, you will have to search long and hard for a hint of party affiliation. The problem is so endemic that if party affiliation is not mentioned in the first graph, it is safe to assume a Democrat is involved.

So we have this story of a corrupt district court judge who is facing impeachment. As the Washington Post observes, it is juicy:

The trial is an extraordinary spectacle, featuring allegations that lawyers and bail bondsmen plied the judge, a reformed drinker and gambler, with gifts to gain his courtroom favor. Cash in envelopes. Bottles of Absolut and coolers of shrimp. A Vegas bachelor party for Porteous’s son, complete with lap dance. It showcases both the often-sordid politics of Louisiana and a struggle over constitutional precedents.

So who appointed him? What’s the judge’s party background? In the 13th paragraph we get this clue: “Mutterings about the ethics of Porteous, a state judge for 10 years and former prosecutor, began almost as soon as he landed on it in 1994.” Landed by osmosis? Ah, that would make him a Clinton appointee! Good to know.

And yes, he’s a pretty liberal judge. In 2002:

U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. ordered the state to stop giving money to individuals or organizations that “convey religious messages or otherwise advance religion” with tax dollars. He said there was ample evidence that many of the groups participating in the Governor’s Program on Abstinence were “furthering religious objectives.” …

The suit, filed in May by the American Civil Liberties Union, was the first legal challenge to abstinence-only programs created under the 1996 welfare reform legislation. Bush has asked Congress to extend the $50 million-a-year program and increase other federal abstinence grants from $40 million this year to $73 million next year.

Also in 2002:

Banning pacifiers and glow sticks in an effort to curb drug use at all-night raves violates free speech and does not further the government’s war on drugs, a federal judge has ruled in permanently blocking federal agents from enforcing the ban. … The American Civil Liberties Union, though, said the ban was unconstitutional and challenged it in federal court. After the suit was filed last year, U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous issued a temporary restraining order preventing the ban from taking effect.

Porteous issued a 12-page ruling Monday that sided with the ACLU in its attack on the ban.

And in 1999, in Causeway Medical Suite v. Foster, Porteous struck down the state ban on partial birth abortion.

Now none of these cases is the basis for the impeachment. But you would think that the report would say something like “A Clinton appointee responsible for a number of controversial rulings in the ACLU’s favor …” Believe me, if a Reagan appointee had been involved in controversial rulings, we would have read “A Reagan appointee criticized by civil rights groups for a slew of controversial rulings against women, orphans, and children …”

Well, you get the picture.