Empathy and Justice for All

Coming Soon to a world near you! President Obama is preparing to nominate a successor to Justice David H. Souter and has cited empathy as "an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes."

Wow! I like this Barack character more and more. Though I'm still inclined to take an apolitical view on some things, I see a pattern taking shape and certainly a concerted effort to breathe some fresh air into a rather stale ideology.

First, it was published that his administration asked to communicate with the Global Coherence Initiative and now he's requesting that judicial appointments display empathy. Holy Cow! Could we actually be awakening to the truth?

Love is the only truth, everything else is illusion.

Yep, that includes violence, war and nasty politics. I know, that's a pretty lofty statement but c'mon, look at the logo folks. Me thinks, asking for a justice to have empathy is a huge step in the direction of peace and sanity.

I know the die-hards might dare call me naive and even dangerous in my thinking but I’m sticking by my truth because everything else seems to make my body ill.

Obama goes on to say,

"I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook; it is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives, whether they can make a living and care for their families... [to have] that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles...”

Obama previously had addressed empathy on the campaign trail and in his second book, The Audacity of Hopenaming the capacity to understand others "at the heart of my moral code."

Conservatives, predictably, are deriding Obama's comments. Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), for example, called empathy "a code for liberal activism" and Wendy Long, legal counsel to the Judicial Confirmation network and former clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas said, "what's wrong with that is it is being partial instead of being impartial. A judge is supposed to have empathy for no one but simply to follow the law."

If you equate judicial empathy with personal preference, then okay, I see your point. But I think it is a bit of a stretch to presuppose that empathetic judges will lead to liberal activism and to further postulate that sitting and former judges have not taken into account their own feelings, morality and experiences is an overly trusting conclusion considering what we know about human tendencies.

Empathy does not mean preference nor is it synonymous with sympathy. Merriam Webster defines empathy as:

1: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it.

2: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for this.

Empathy does not assume preference, only understanding. Empathy is a natural state of human compassion.

I would tend to agree with the conviction that the law should be blind, empathetic to no one and that somehow this is the only way our system can function under the Constitution IF the world was black and white but from my progressive panorama - this is not the case.

While I respect the law as a framework to protect and uphold basic freedoms and ideas like don't kill, steal or hurt others, there are no absolutes.

I, personally, do not perceive Supreme Court cases to be as clear-cut as some speculate and their decisions are certainly not the end-all-be-all that some filter their perception through. If laws were that discernible there would be no need to convene a court to argue sides.

Though Obama was ridiculed by the right for his pronouncement, I will always champion common sense, compassion and rationality over a strict adherence to laws which are subject to interpretation and predisposed to change with the times.

As an equal-opportunity-brainer, I prefer the left side to work in conjunction with the right when making sound decisions. So hear hear, to the promotion of our full frontal lobes to the judicial branch of government. May you live long and prosper, spreading truth in all the land.


What do you think? Post your comments below!

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