Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mayor Criticized on Judicial Stance by Michael Howard Sau l- WSJ.com

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg, vowing to keep fighting to shutter 19 failing city schools, suggested Friday that judges should take a more activist role when deciding cases.

The mayor's remarks—denouncing a unanimous appellate court ruling that prevents his administration from closing the schools—offer a provocative glimpse at Mr. Bloomberg's perspective on the role of the judiciary and would undoubtedly be a lightning rod if he launched a bid for president.

Mr. Bloomberg, 68 years old, contemplated a White House bid in 2008 and there is widespread speculation that he still harbors such ambitions.

On his weekly radio show, the mayor conceded it's "probably true" that his administration "didn't comply" with the procedures required under law to close the schools, but he suggested the five-judge panel on the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court should have looked at the bigger picture.

"We're playing with children's lives, not whether the I's are dotted and the T's are crossed," Mr. Bloomberg said. "They should look at the context of it, and for them to think, 'Well, you know, I'm just here to interpret the law,' that's not true. They are part of society."

Mr. Bloomberg said the judges "made a terrible mistake, and...should have found a ways to interpret the law—and they have plenty of discretion, it's ridiculous to say they don't—to accomplish what's good for society."

Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative think tank based in Virginia, called the mayor's remarks "disturbing."
"The definition of judicial activism is a judge ignoring what the text of a law says—whether it's the Constitution, or a statute, or a regulation—and instead substituting his own view of what is the greater societal good," he said.

Mr. Clegg said the mayor's remarks "would come back to haunt him" if he decides to pursue a White House bid. Mr. Bloomberg has repeatedly said he has no plans to run for president.

Doug Muzzio, a professor of public affairs at Baruch College, said Mr. Bloomberg's remarks reflect his "hubris and arrogance."

"He's telling the judges that 'I am so right on the issue that your interpretation of the law doesn't matter. It's Bloomberg law. I am the philosopher king. I know best,'" Mr. Muzzio said. "It's outrageous, but characteristic of the mayor and his attitude."

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, which brought the suit along with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the mayor's administration was instrumental in crafting the very law it violated.

"You support a law, you help draft a law, then, your agency goes out of its way to make sure they don't follow it," he said. "It's ridiculous."

He said judges should make decisions based on the facts and the law. "We're in a lot of trouble if the facts be damned," he said.

An aide to Mr. Bloomberg declined Friday to respond to the criticism that the mayor's comments elicited.