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Kerry Voices Concerns for Justice System

March 9, 2003

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Sen. John Kerry said Saturday he is concerned about the politicization of America’s judicial system.

The Massachusetts senator, one of nine Democrats vying for his party’s presidential nomination, used a speech at a Drake Law School banquet to highlight what he called a disturbing trend in the system.

He said a number of rights are being threatened because of politics mingling with the legal system, including President Bush’s push to get conservative judges appointed to the bench.

``I don’t believe we need conservative judges or liberal judges or anything but patriotic American judges who will enforce the laws and the Constitution of the United States,″ he said. ``Our courts should never be the wholly owned subsidiaries of any one political party, any one point of view, any one ideology or any one president.″

The speech came after Kerry last week helped Democrats block a vote on Miguel Estrada’s nomination for a federal appeals court, dealing Bush a setback.

Kerry said Estrada has many qualifications for the position, but that Democratic opposition is a statement over concerns of what Estrada would do on the bench.

``It stems from the ideological nature of the nomination of where they are going with the court,″ he said. ``It is really trying to make clear the statement that we can’t allow this kind of process with the declared intent to undo settled law as the purpose of the appointment.″

Republican Party spokesman Joel Hannahs said the Democrats haven’t presented a good argument for their actions, and that Estrada deserves the nomination.

``The message is simply that Miguel Estrada deserves a fair up and down vote by the Senate,″ he said. ``Estrada is an American success story.

Kerry reminded the law students that judges are appointed for life and insisted there is no room for politics in the nomination process.

``Whenever one party attempts to run judicial decisions into political debates, it causes all of our fellow citizens to doubt the independence of the courts and to question even the law itself,″ he said.


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