Gerry Darrow's Opening Remarks Before Senate Panel
Senator Leahy, Senator Sessions, other members of this committee, my name is Gerry Darrow, and I am here today to answer your questions. I won't evade or hide any inconvenient truth or attitude from you or the American people. But before I answer your questions, I have a few for you. The mere posing of these questions will shed great light on my philosophy and temperament. What you make of me will determine whether I become the newest justice on the Supreme Court. I respect your right to make this decision.
Is there a one of you here who would trade the power, prestige and affluence you now enjoy to establish a new secular order? I looked at a dollar bill the other day and I saw the promise of something new printed right there on the back of it. Yet the nation groans now beneath the same historic weight of rich versus poor that from time to time brough Rome to its knees. Is ours a new order any longer, or are we now simply another in a series of nations that have betrayed the energy of its founding? The world groans in poverty and despair, and we ignore it.
The people I represent cry out for justice. They've learned to settle for laws that are often written behind closed doors, bought and paid for by lobbyists wearing suits that cost more than they spend in a year on a wardrobe. Banks fail, and you bail them out. The people fail and tumble and you are not there to catch them. Folks no longer look to these chambers for hope. Instead this one fiddles a sad tune about the intentions of men who rode in horses and buggies, while that one hums a silent tune of praise to his campaign contributors. I came here today with a heavy heart, and longed to find just one money chamber's table to turn over. That's my America, an open wound you refuse to look at, much less treat.
I am, Senator Sessions, a trial lawyer. I learned my trade yoked to the law, as you put it in your remarks this morning. The law's doctrines have broken men and women standing next to me. Some have killed in a rash moment and we called it murder. Others have taken by force what you would not give by law and we call it robbery. Despair and lack of hope have led many to dull their pain with alcohol and drugs. My American is filled with people just getting by and wondering why they should give a whit about whether either of your parties prevails. I know the law, Senators. The law is too often deaf to need; it serves power.
Can any of you tell me what justice is? Can you tell me, Senator Cole? What is justice, sir?
I cannot tell you that I know. I agree with Clarence Darrow: "There is no justice in or out of court." What there is is conflict and the resolution of conflict. Life is a struggle between those who have and those who do not. It has always been that way. It will alwys be that way. It is that way today. How often do debates in this very room pretend it is otherwise?
I did not attend an elite law school. I have never clerked for a judge. I've never set foot in the office of an elected official. I am not a professor or a dean. I am a lawyer. I read the laws you pass and I know that you don't have a single intent, often many of you have not even read the laws you vote on. What I read of your debates tells me there is little on which you can agree. No, I read the law and then I look to my client to see what he or she hopes for in the struggle that brings them to me. Then I used the law to fight to get them what they want. My clients have interests; they are not members of a party with an agenda cast in sweeping policy terms. They bleed. Have you ever seen corporate blood, Senator Hatch?
Senator Leahy, I heard you say in your opening remarks Constitution was intended to last for the ages. ow much longer do you think we really have? How many Americans don't vote because the outcome of an election doesn't matter? How many have given up hope of finding a job? For how many Americans have the material circumstances of their lives led down the dark path of mental illness? Not one of you can truly answer these questions. You don't know the answers. It is not that you don't care. It is simply that your America is a world of well-set tables and manners. Mine is that of the stable and litter-strewn stoop.
You want to know my view of judging? I'll be honest with you: I'm not sure I have a settled view. I've been too busy trying cases to adopt one, or even to give the matter much thought. Perhaps it is easier to say what my view lacks. I bring no predisposition to how the Constitution should be read. Strangers meet on a street and are knit together by the law's silent chords. The Constitution is the primary chord. It must bind high and low in the same bundle. The social contract must be struck each generation anew; we always poor new wine into old skins. When those skins break, we remake them, one at a time. As judge my job will be to decide the case before me in a principled manner, using the best material at hand. It is the litigants' job to bring me the brick and mortar with which to build. I come to this Court with empty hands and an aching heart, nothing more.
I believe in the separation of powers. This is a republic. The courts stand removed from the passions of the day. When you are swept by the day's events and act too rashly as a legislative body, I believe it is the courts' role to say "Not so fast." Do not expect deference from me for all that you do. The federal government is a government of limited powers; yes, commerce has changed the nature and scope of our lives, but the fundamental commitment to the dignity of the individual remains sacrosanct. I believe the Court is the guardian of that dignity. I believe my experience as a criminal defense lawyer has taught me to love the flame flickering within each breast.
We are all summoned from the unknown and take shape, live and then die in a community of strangers. The law makes false friends of us all. There should be no berth in our society so low that the mightiest would scorn to occupy it if chance had cast his lot to the lower order, rather than the highest. The law knows no friends, and its only enemy is the man without law, the man who sets himself apart. I worry, Senators, that you are apart, and that you serve an often silent elite the scorns those you never really see from a room with as pretty a setting as this.
Do I want to be a Supreme Court justice? Not really. I could live without the honor and the power and the prestige. When I walked into this room and saw the lights flashing I felt like a fool. Me, a middle aged man now a rock star, with groupies attending my every step. I saw some of you smile when you entered the room. Have you come to love your comfort perhaps more than you should?
I am not a member of any political party. I rarely vote. I pay my taxes, work, love my wife and kids, and read in the silent evenings I can steal from my clients' needs. I am no more than this, but in this I am independent. I will serve if chosen because I have been asked to do so. This is not a position for which I have groomed myself from youth onward. In truth, I never set a path for myself that required me to sacrifice my peace of mind. If selected, I will read the law, read the briefs submitted, question the lawyers who argue before me, and press my client to give coherent accounts for their opinions. Then I will do my best to decide each case according to such principles of right, precedent and law that I can discern.
Will this make me a good justice? I do not know. I will be an honest judge, the sort of which a litigant can say: "He listened, and I understand why he decided as he did." There is nothing more I can aspire to, and, frankly, nothing more to say on the topic.
Thank you for listening to me. I await your questions.
More on the Gerry Darrow nomination here: http://gerrydarrow.blogspot.com.