Want Do the Anti-Bird Forces Really Want?

August 31, 1985

Your series of articles (Editorial Pages, July 29-31) by Prof. Michael Moore of USC started me wondering what the people campaigning to dump Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird and other justices from our state Supreme Court really want.

They claim to want judges who will follow the law as it is written without imposing their own interpretations. Since the Constitution is our fundamental law they should want that interpreted as it is written. But I wonder.

Do they really want a literal interpretation of the First Amendment? Even the part that says "no law" abridging the freedom of the press? This would mean no controls on pornography. And the government would not be able to punish the press for publishing classified documents.

Do they really want strict obedience to the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable or warrantless searches? Or do they prefer to let Police Chief Daryl F. Gates knock down a few innocent houses in his campaign to rid our city of "rock houses"? Where do these "strict interpreters" stand in the ongoing fight to preserve the strict "exclusionary rule?"

Do they really want the Fifth Amendment's prohibition of coerced confessions? Or do they want to let police return to the "persuasion" that used to be used on suspects? How about the guarantee of assistance of counsel? Do they support the Fifth Amendment or President Reagan's attempts to gut legal aid for the poor?

Do they really want the Eighth Amendment's guarantee of reasonable bail? Or do they want "dangerous" suspects locked up until trial?

These questions are merely rhetorical to anyone who reads The Times regularly. Most people who want to dump Chief Justice Bird as a way of restoring the death penalty seek her ouster precisely because she won't apply their double standards. The ultimate hypocrisy of the death penalty proponents in letters to The Times is their desire to impose a penalty that they define as cruel and unusual.

People are angry that there haven't been any executions for a long time. By their own descriptions executions are far too unusual. And they demand penalties that are as cruel to the criminal as the criminal was to his victim.

An eye-for-an-eye is the model they seek to follow. But our law is the Constitution, not the Bible. If we seek a punishment because it is cruel retribution for a cruel criminal we set ourselves outside the letter of our law.

I doubt that most of the anti-Bird campaigners know what they really want. But I really want hypocritical conservatives to keep their politics out of California's Supreme Court.



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