Monday, September 14, 2009

Next Supreme Court Nominee?

This federal judge mentioned in today's lead piece in the NY Times might make a good candidate.

District Court Justice Jed S. Rakoff seems to have the ability to cut through the lawyerly lingo to the real issues, and doesn't mind giving both governmental entities and powerful businesses a good kick in the pants, when it's needed.

In his ruling, Judge Rakoff overturned a settlement between Bank of America and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over bonuses paid to Merrill Lynch executives just before the bank took over the securities house last year. The bonuses were not disclosed to stockholders before they voted to approve the buyout. The $33 million settlement “does not comport with the most elementary notions of justice and morality,” he wrote, criticizing the fact that the fine levied against Merril Lynch for the nondisclosure would be paid by the bank’s shareholders — yes, by the folks who were injured by the lack of disclosure.

The proposed settlement, according to Judge Rakoff, “suggests a rather cynical relationship between the parties: the S.E.C. gets to claim that it is exposing wrongdoing on the part of the Bank of America in a high-profile merger; the bank’s management gets to claim that they have been coerced into an onerous settlement by overzealous regulators. And all this is done at the expense, not only of the shareholders, but also of the truth.”

Apparently, this isn't the first time this judge has called out cozy regulator/offender dealings — this judge presided over the Worldcom debacle (Remember the Enron "cooking the books" scandal, and all that, a few years back?), and sent the government and Worldcom execs to the woodshed on that one, too.

I think we need more regulation of Wall Street, but first, we need regulators who actually want to regulate (rather than merely appear to do so) and we need more judges who are willing to call bullshit by its proper name and are willing to call out those who dish it up to the American public.

Mr. Obama, I respectfully suggest that you give this guy a look, if you get another shot at the Supreme.

Having made that request, please pardon my cynicism if I also add that I'm sure he'd never be approved for the highest court, here. (Especially if they change the campaign finance laws so corporations, which now have to get the cash to candidates through more surreptitious means, will be able to openly buy and sell Senators and Representatives.) The business lobbyists wouldn't let them. They'd figure out a way to "Bork" him, and if that didn't work, they'd no doubt try to find a way to "Clarence Thomas" him.

In many other countries, he'd be a marked man. So, I guess we should be thankful for that much. (Please hear the sarcasm. It's intended.)

But I'd still like to see him get nominated. If only for the fact that America needs some heroes right now. And they're out there, but the religious conservative Republicans who keep keeping getting caught in extra-marital dalliances (or feel thy have to shout "You lie" at the President), and the left-wing Democrats who are wringing their hands over who will fill Teddy's filibuster-proofing seat in the Senate (or blurting out that they're communists) keep distracting the media from matters of substance.

A dramatic Supreme Court nominee approval process would, at least, get the glare of the spotlight onto a person of substance who has earned the attention.

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