Light is Right Joe Campbell

When polled, Canadians ranked judges among the most trusted professionals and lawyers among the least. “Don’t Canadians know that judges are lawyers?” Dingwall asked, when I showed him the rankings.

“Maybe Canadians think that getting appointed to the judiciary makes lawyers more trustworthy,” I suggested.

“But politicians appoint them,” Dingwall said, “and the poll shows that Canadians trust politicians even less than lawyers.”

“With the power they wield,” I said, “judges should be the most trustworthy of all.”

“Canadians trust firefighters and nurses more than judges,” he replied.

“Maybe firefighters should be judges and nurses should appoint them.”

“Fighting fires might provide better training for the judiciary than arguing cases,” he conceded. “If firefighters act as though reality is optional, the consequences can be immediate and dire. If lawyers do it, the consequences, though dire, may take years to unfold.”

“Surely you don’t suggest that judges defy reality.”

“They do,” he replied, “when they fail to see, or choose not to see, what is, and when they see, or choose to see, what is not.”

He noted that although everyone has a constitutional right to life, judges who interpret the Constitution can’t or won’t see that everyone means all of us.

“Even children know that everyone means all of us,” he said.

“Maybe children should be judges.”

“I can’t imagine a child thinking that an unborn sibling is merely a part of their mother and lacks a separate identity until birth,” Dingwall said. “Nor can I imagine a child thinking that a mother who strangles her newborn son may deserve jail for improperly disposing of his body, but not for taking his life.”

He cited the constitutional right to equality as evidence of judges seeing what is not. “When considering prohibitive grounds for discrimination,” Dingwall said, “judges have not only recognized characteristics like race, religion and sex, which the framers put into the Constitution, but also sexual orientation, which the framers deliberately left out.”

“In the judiciary,” I noted, “the average age tends to be higher than in other professions. Maybe declining eyesight explains why judges don’t see what is and see what isn’t.”

“It’s not a failure of sight,” Dingwall said. “It’s a lack of vision. How else do you explain judges who can’t or won’t see the difference between who we are and what we do?”

“Even children can see that,” I said.

“Even companion animals can see it,” he said, “yet some judges declare that homosexual activity is inseparable from identity. So if you say that you hate the activity, they say that you hate the person.”

“Those judges must be full of hate themselves,” I said.

“You think so?”

“While judging, they likely sentenced pedophiles, rapists, sadists, serial killers and what have you to prison. It’s sobering to think that in hating the crimes, the judges also hated the criminals. My kind of judge would have hated what they did, but loved them enough to hope for their rehabilitation.”

“Hate the sin, love the sinner is traditional wisdom,” Dingwall said.

“And I’m grateful for it,” I replied. “When aggressive inclinations prompted me to misbehave, my parents hated it. But I always knew that they loved me.”

“If any inclinations are inseparable from identity,” he said, “they would include aggressiveness. We’re aggressive by nature. But whether aggressive activities are hate worthy or lovable depends on what we do.”

“Or don’t do.”

“I feel sorry for judges,” Dingwall said. “When they interpreted laws and applied them to changing circumstances, judges did pretty well. They got into trouble when politicians added a Charter of Rights and Freedoms to the Constitution.”

“Canadians think the Charter is fine.”

“It is, if you don’t mind inconsistencies and vague and ill-defined language,” he said. “The trouble is that judges use the Charter as a standard against which they not only interpret laws but also assess their constitutional validity.”

“The Charter changed their job description?”

“In light of the Charter,” Dingwall said, “they may revise laws, strike them down or create new ones. In doing so, they invest the vague language of the Charter with specific meanings that have political, moral and philosophical implications.”

“But judges, being lawyers, are no more qualified than the rest of us in politics, morality and philosophy.”

“Neither are legislators,” Dingwall said. “But when legislators blunder, we can vote them out of office. Judges are virtually irremovable and unaccountable.”

“It sounds like the politicians created a monster.”

“That’s why I feel sorry for judges.”