Now that Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has announced her retirement, folks on both sides of the political fence are busy speculating about who George W. Bush might nominate as her successor.
Some believe that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a long-time Bush friend and trusted advisor, is a likely candidate. Interestingly, this possibility has some conservatives in an uproar, as they believe that Gonzales’s views on abortion are too liberal.
At the same time, some Democrats are wondering if it might be best to “settle” for Gonzales rather than risk the possibility of a more socially conservative alternative. While this approach might appeal to some staunch pro-choice activists, we must look at more than just that one issue. The next Supreme Court justice will likely be making some far-reaching life-and-death decisions over the next 30 years or so. Therefore, we must carefully evaluate the nominee’s judicial record and thereby determine whether or not he (or she) should be entrusted with the responsibility for interpreting the Constitution, upholding the law of the land, and ensuring that justice is served.
So let’s take a look at Alberto Gonzales’s record with regard to the preservation of justice and respect for the rule of law:
First of all, Gonzales achieved fame as the architect of the Bush administration’s torture and detention policies. In his famous “torture memo”, Gonzales described the Geneva Conventions as “obsolete” and “quaint”. He advocated for holding detainees secretly and indefinitely, and depriving them of the right to due process, by arbitrarily labeling them as “unlawful combatants”. In Gonzales’s America (and American-run prison camps), hundreds no longer enjoy a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, or even the right to a fair trial. Instead, they are held incommunicado, without charge, without attorneys, and without trial – but not without abuse, humiliation, intimidation, and torture.
But long before the photos from Abu Ghraib appeared on our television screens, Gonzales was busy finding ways to undermine the Texas justice system and deprive that state’s death row inmates of due process. In the 1990s, while George W. Bush was governor of Texas, Gonzales was responsible for reviewing capital cases and recommending whether Bush should commute prisoners’ death sentences. Several Texas attorneys have alleged that Gonzales provided Bush with unfair or incomplete summaries of their cases, omitting key evidence and mitigating circumstances that might have influenced Bush’s decisions.
In a nutshell, throughout his career, Gonzales has consistently sought out legal loopholes through which he could deny people their rights.
Is this the kind of person who should be entrusted with lifelong responsibility for interpreting our laws and defining justice?