One of the most important issues for Republican voters is the judicial branch. It was perahps theone issue that enabled President Bush to keep nearly all social conservatives on his side in 2004 (including Pat Buchanan, who specifically cited it as a reason he supported Bush’s re-e-election). Thus, one would be interested to know Mr. Huckabee’s view on good judicial appointments. Lucky for us, Liberty Pundit already talked to him about it (via Confirm Them, emphasis added):
Brian (LP): Is there anything you can share about your experience of appointing judges while Governor?
Governor Huckabee: You know, I looked for people who embodied those very things I just mentioned. A commitment to a strict constructionist view of their job, viewed the Constitution as something that they were simply to apply, not to reinterpret and rewrite. But I also looked for people who embodied the kind of temperament that we needed on the bench, who would, uh, divorce themselves and distance themselves from their own personal passions in the sense of letting their emotions drive them, but [instead] letting the Constitution drive them. And, uh, the kind of people I appointed certainly ended up, uh, for example, one I can think of, that I put on the State Supreme Court…President Bush appointed him to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. An outstanding young jurist named Lavenski Smith that I’ve known since I was in grade school. And he’s a person that embodies the kind of person we need on the bench, he, uh, has a deep respect for God, for this country and its Constitution, and, uh, almost approaches his job with a sense of fear and trembling, to make sure that he does it in such a way that he has a clear conscience.
Now, Smith is just one judge among many, but (1) judges are elected in Arkansas, so Huckabee’s appointments were only temporary and much fewer than governors in other states, and (2) Smith’s record is hardly that of a “strict constructionist.” Here’s what the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Bench & Bar had to say about him (emphasis added):
Since joining the court, Judge Smith has authored approximately 100 majority opinions, two concurring opinions, and seven dissenting opinions. His opinions appear to place him slightly to the left of center on the court ideologically, but with some unpredictability. He has dissented three times in search-and-seizure cases, each time taking the position that investigating officers did not comply with the 4th Amendment. He also joined an en banc dissent favoring the suppression of a criminal defendant’s confession on the ground it was involuntary. In employment discrimination cases, he has written a dissenting opinion to oppose a remittitur from $200,000 to $10,000, and he has joined in an en banc dissent that took the position that an employee could prove a claim of race discrimination in a promotion even though he never formally applied for the position.
Lavenski Smith has turned out to be ever-so- slightly left-of-center on the Eighth Circuit, left of that Circuit’s center on race discrimination claims, and willing to uphold some restrictions on anti-abortion signs (that latter fact is surprising given his pre-judicial litigation work with the Rutherford Institute). Despite his once conservative background, he now seems to be a moderate with some liberal tendencies.
If this is the kind of jurist Mike Huckabee calls a “strict constructionist,” we’re in big trouble.