There is a new interview with Judge Jones in the July/August edition of the Pennsylvania Lawyer. The article is not available online, but I wanted to share some of the more interesting bits. As he did at the close of the trial and many times since, he offered a great deal of praise to the attorneys, particularly from the plaintiffs team:
In this case, however, it wasn’t simply a matter of everyone just doing their jobs. In Jones’ view, the lawyers performed exceedingly well.
“I think that some of the cross-examination was absolutely fabulous,” said Jones. “It will endure, and I think it will be excerpted for advocacy classes. … I would say, in particular, Eric Rothschild’s cross-examination of Professor [Michael] Behe — the intelligent design proponent — that might be as good a cross-examination of an expert witness as I have ever seen. It was textbook.”
That it was. If you want to read it, it begins here. I said at the time that it was one of the most devestating cross examinations I had ever seen. Aside from the testimony of Barbara Forrest, I thought that the Behe cross was the single most important turning point in the trial. It was during that cross that it was established, beyond a doubt, that ID is primarily an argument from ignorance. Behe continuing to assist that the scientific literature contains nothing to explain the evolution of the immune system even after admitting that he had not read an enormous portion of that literature could not have looked worse.
And his admission that the paper he authored with Snoke was essentially rigged against evolution by the application of wildly unreallistic paramaters for the simulation and still concluded that the allegedly IC binding site could have evolved in a relatively short period of time was probably even more devestating. I also thought his comment about the interaction with his fellow judges on the circuit was fascinating:
“They would check on me from time to time because they heard things about the trial and understood what I was going through,” Jones said with a grin. “Their questions to me were more like, ‘How are you handling it? Are you holding up all right?’ I would say they enjoyed [the trial] vicariously. … You know, we’re no different than any other group. There was often some kind of judges’ chambers chatter, like ‘Wait till you hear what happened to me today.’ You could have a couple of UPS drivers having the same type of conversation!”
I think this is interesting because it reminds us that judges are human beings. Judge Jones talks in the interview about how surreal it was to show up at the courtroom the day the trial opened and find satellite trucks surrounding the building, and the courtroom filled with media. One of the shameful aspects of the ID crowd’s response to his ruling has been that they take any statement from him about the obvious magnitude of the trial and spin that to mean that he was starstruck and was just in the case for the celebrity he would get out of it.
In fact, I think the interviews that he has done on the subject since then have shown quite well both his humanity and his professionalism. He doesn’t come across like a glory hound, he comes across as a regular guy who grasps the importance of the trial, but didn’t let that importance get in the way of doing his job. He presided over the trial with fairness and a sense of humor, offering both sides every opportunity to make their arguments in full, and he has viewed the aftermath of the trial as an opportunity to educate the public on how such decisions are reached. And one of the things he has done is puncture the empty rhetoric about “activist judges”:
Somewhat less heartening is having your carefully wrought 139-page opinion dismissed as the work of an “activist judge,” even when you expect it. Jones went so far as to include a reference to the term in his conclusion, writing: “Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy.”
Jones says he has little patience for the activist judge label. “An activist judge is a judge whose decision you disagree with — I don’t think it articulates any more than that,” he said.
“I think what’s happening is the public, to a great degree, has been dumbed down and led to believe — and it’s not just the public, it’s the media and even people who are in the political realm — that a judge, in this case [one] with Republican bona fides, is going to rule in a certain way. That completely and entirely overlooks the proper role of judges in cases such as this, in my opinion. I think that ‘judicial activist’ tag is an unfortunate example of why we need a bit of a civics lesson about the role of the judiciary.”
And he has taken advantage of that opportunity and helped to teach that civics lesson to the public. It’s the same lesson I’ve been teaching for 3 years on this blog, that the phrase “activist judges” is an empty catchphrase that only means “judges I disagree with” and nothing more. I hope this article is made available on the web somewhere to read in full. I think you get a real sense of the decency and humanity of Judge Jones, a decency that has sadly been attacked viciously by those who disagreed with his ruling.