Hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee - Confirmation Hearings for John G. Roberts, Jr. to become Chief Justice of the United States
STATEMENT OF HON. TOM COBURN, A U.S. SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA
Senator COBURN. Thank you, Senator. First of all, I would like to thank you and your staff, as well as all the staff of this Committee.
While we were traveling in August, they were laboring diligently to help prepare us for these hearings.
I also think everybody should know that Senator Brownback is entering his fifth decade, so he can catch up with the rest of us.
And finally, I am somewhat amused at the propensity for us to project your life expectancy. I met with you twice, and as the only physician on this panel and one of the few non-lawyers on this panel, I find it some what amusing that we can predict that without a history, a physical exam, or a family history. But we will let that pass.
I am a physician, and up until the end of this month and, hopefully, after that, I will continue to practice. This weekend I had the great fortune of delivering two little girls. And I have had the opportunity to talk with people from all walks of life as a physician those that have nothing and those that have everything. And I believe the people in our country, and in my State in particular, are interested and concerned with two main issues. One is this word of judicial activism that means such a different thing to so many different people. And the second is the polarization that has resulted from it, and the division that occurred in our country that separates us and divides us at a time when we need to be together.
We each have our own definition of judicial activism. Essentially, the Court will not become an activist court if it adheres to its appropriate role and does not attempt to legislate or create policy. There always will be and should always be checks on each of the different branches of Government. Yet look where we are today. Decades of judicial activism have created these huge rifts in the social fabric of our country. Whether we are on one side or the other, it is a tension pulling us apart rather than a tension pulling us together.
I believe we have seen Federal and State legislators' responsibility usurped by the Court, especially to make important decisions, and I think that is what has created a lot of the division within our country. And I believe it is time that that stop, and a limited role for the Supreme Court. I think we are willing to debate as a country what judicial activism is, but we are also wanting someone who will listen to both sides of that and, in a measured and balanced way, knowing what the Constitution says and the restraint that our forefathers have written about, will take that into consideration.
I am deeply heartened in that I have read many statements that you have made, where you indicate a more proper role for that of the judiciary, and I believe in our discussion, a super-legislator body is not what the Court was intended to be.
When I ponder our country and its greatness, its weaknesses, its potential, my heart aches for less divisiveness, less polarization,less finger pointing, less bitterness, less mindless partisanship, which at times sounds almost hateful to the ear of Americans. The problems before our country are enormous. Our family structures have declined. Our dependency on Government has grown. The very heritage of our country, which was born out of sacrifice by those who preceded us is at risk. We are all Americans. We all want the greatest future for the generations to come, protection for the innocent and the frail, support for those less fortunate. But most of all we want an America that will live on as a beacon of hope, freedom, kindness and opportunity.
America is an idea. It is not competing ideologies. It is an idea that has proven tremendously successful, and when we reduce it to that of competing ideologies, we make it less than what it is. I believe the genius of our Founders is that they recognized that individual rights were derived from a creator, not a king, not a court, not a legislature or a state. Our Founders were concerned that if our rights derived from the state or a court, they could be taken away by a state or a court. Our Constitution enshrines this idea and gives its meaning in the rule of law. That is why it is important for us to respect the words of that Constitution.
I would hope, as we conduct these hearings over the next few days, our tendency as politicians to be insensitive, bitter, discourteous and political, will surrender to the higher values that define us as a Nation. We have an opportunity to lead by example, to restore the values and principles that bind us together. How we conduct ourselves and how we treat you, Judge Roberts, can be a great start towards reconciliation in our country.
I want one America. An America that continues to be divided is an America that is at risk. Our country waits for its leaders at all
levels to rise to the occasion of rebuilding our future by placing our political fortunes last and constitutional principles first, and working diligently to reconcile each and every American to the freedom and responsibility that our republic demands.
May God bless our efforts.