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'Lesson for Deukmejian'

September 14, 1986

It is a free country and Gov. Deukmejian does have the right, as you said in your editorial (Aug. 27), "Violation of a Concept," to declare how he will vote on California Supreme Court justices this fall. He does not, however, have the right to criticize Mayor Tom Bradley for refusing to join the lynch mob that is out to destroy the judicial careers of three honest, decent and capable jurists.

After having criticized Mayor Bradley for taking some time to announce that he would not publicly say how he would vote because it would further politicize the court, it is disingenuous for the governor to have taken months to declare his opposition to Justices Grodin and Reynoso, particularly when that announcement was so transparently timed to maximize the governor's single-issue campaign.

The general public may not know it, but every decision of the California Supreme Court is in writing and the governor knew as much about the decisions of Justices Grodin and Reynoso months ago as he knows now. His spokesman's litany of the count of votes of each of the three justices who overturned the death penalty reminds one of Madame Defarge in Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities" as she stitched the names of each accused into the death shrouds she was knitting at the French Revolutionary Tribunal.

The governor's purpose is obvious and transparent, i.e., to gain control of the Supreme Court by driving three justices out of office and packing the court with his own handpicked replacements.

It's the old story of a politician whipping up a public frenzy and then stating that he is merely following the will of the public. The members of the howling mob who are out to scalp these justices are protesting loudly and vigorously that they are the great defenders of the Constitution. They have, however, forgotten that the very procedural safeguards that these justices have upheld (as part of a majority of the court) are the very building blocks of the substantive protections of the Constitution.

An independent judiciary is the cornerstone of our democracy. The justices of the Supreme Court are not on the court to do the bidding of the governor nor to pander to a public that has been inflamed by demagogues using the death penalty issue for their own purposes.


Sherman Oaks

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