Editor’s Notebook – Ruling on Jewish Judges

Editor’s Notebook – Ruling on Jewish Judges

Michael Jacobs

Atlanta Jewish Times Editor Michael Jacobs is on his second stint leading the AJT's editorial operations. He previously served as managing editor from 2005 to 2008.

What is it about Jewish judges?

As someone who would have pursued the law as a career if I hadn’t been bitten by the journalism bug in college — an apparently incurable disease — I’ve been asking myself that question a lot lately.

It started with Judge Dax Lopez and his inability after his nomination to the U.S. District Court in July to get fair consideration in the U.S. Senate, thanks to Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue. Not that I think Perdue cares, but he won’t be getting a vote from me ever. As for what Lopez thinks, check out the story on Page 6 of this week’s AJT.

The election qualification period this month was a reminder of the prominence of Jewish judges in Georgia, at least compared with legislators.

Michael Jacobs
Michael Jacobs

Only two of 236 state legislators are Jewish, and one of them, Michele Henson, will have to survive a Democratic primary challenge to keep her House seat. But Jewish judges and Jewish candidates for judge are plentiful from Probate Court to State Court to Superior Court, to the point that at least two judgeships have two Jewish candidates on the ballot May 24.

Then there’s the U.S. Supreme Court.

We Jews make up less than 2 percent (and shrinking) of the U.S. population, yet our representation on the highest court in the land continues to grow. It was 33 percent (three of nine) to start 2016 and rose to 38 percent when Antonin Scalia died.

Sure enough, President Barack Obama picked another Jewish jurist, Merrick Garland, to fill that Supreme Court vacancy. In the unlikely event that Republicans cave on their vow not to consider Garland’s nomination and confirm him, 44 percent of the justices will be Jews.

(I’ve heard it suggested that if Garland doesn’t get a hearing before the November elections but Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, the Republicans might hold a lame-duck Senate session to confirm Garland for fear of seeing a more liberal nominee in January. From the GOP’s perspective, that strategy makes a lot of sense.)

The craziest bit of trivia, however, isn’t the proportionally high number of Jewish justices; it’s the absence of representatives of America’s dominant Protestant culture. The five non-Jewish justices are Catholic, as Scalia was.

To put in perspective the Jewish-Catholic control of the high court since John Paul Stevens retired in 2010, remember that in the history of the United States, Catholics and Jews have combined to produce exactly one president.

At this point, maybe the real question to ask is where have all the good Protestant judges gone?

Our Own Queen Esther

I hope you enjoyed our playful Times of Shushan Purim section last week. If you did, the credit goes to AJT columnist Chana Shapiro, who once again filled the heroic role of Esther by bailing us out in our time of need. She was the driving force behind the section and did almost all the writing.

Also deserving thanks is a merry band of contributors who sat around a table at Broadway Cafe and brainstormed with Chana and me: Logan C. Ritchie, Leah R. Harrison, Dave Schechter, R.M. Grossblatt, Kevin Madigan and Associate Editor David R. Cohen.

Much of the best material didn’t make it into print, but if you gained even half the pleasure from reading the section that we had creating it, we accomplished our mission to enhance the celebratory silliness of the season.



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