Larry Moran needs to be careful; if he keeps up this level of ignorant blather, the Discovery Institute is going to offer him a fellowship. In a new post, he attempts to reply to my criticisms of his earlier comments about the DI’s absurd attacks on Judge Jones; unfortunately, he only compounds the problems with his first post and further demonstrates his completely lack of knowledge and understanding of how court rulings work. He starts with the usual misrepresentation of my argument:
Ed and his followers–a dozen or so at last count–are not happy. Apparently, I have violated one of the cardinal sins of the appeasers. I have questioned one of the good guys.
No, Larry. I have absolutely no problem with questioning anyone, good guy or bad guy. What I have a problem with is ignorant attacks on them, and that is what you’re engaging in. And the follow up post only reinforces that fact. I’m sure you know a great deal about biochemistry, but you clearly don’t know a thing about the legal process.
Yes, indeed I did expect the judge to express his own opinion. Yes, I thought the difference between being “brilliant” and being something less than brilliant has something to do with expressing yourself in your own words. Professors can be picky about that sort of thing.
I now know better. I now know that my expectations were unrealistic. The American legal culture places a high value on the ability to copy the right document and not on the ability to be an original thinker. This is a different culture than I one I inhabit. I’m sorry for being so out-of-step. I understand your culture’s definition of “brilliant” and I accept it, even if I disagree.
Lots of snark and sarcasm, but that only covers up the key mistake in Moran’s thinking: the findings of fact are emphatically and explicitly not an expression of the judge’s opinion. Indeed, we do not want them to be. The findings of fact are not only distinct from the judge’s opinion on the matter, it’s also quite distinct from the writing of his legal opinion, which simply means his legal ruling. The findings of fact are distinct from the conclusions of law. Judge Jones used the same language that the plaintiffs used in expressing many of the findings of fact, but even the DI does not allege that he did so with the writing of the legal opinion.
I take this to mean that you were aware from the beginning that large sections of the Judge Jones opinion were reproduced exactly as found in the plaintiffs’ document. Point taken. It seems to be common knowledge among Americans that judge’s opinions are not necessarily written by the judge. It seems to have been widely known that Judge Jones copied large sections of the plaintiff’s document. Dozens of people have criticized me for not knowing this. Mea culpa. I didn’t know, but apparently I should have.
What you should know, certainly by now, is A) the distinction between findings of fact and the judge’s opinion (or the legal opinion or ruling itself), and B) that it is absolutely normal for the judge to use identical or similar phrasing when listing the findings of fact in a case. I know why the DI continues to act so blockheaded about it; it gets in the way of the myth they’re trying to sell. I can’t imagine why you’re being so blockheaded about it.
I never said that the validity of his ruling was in question. I’m in no position to judge the minutiae of American constitutional law. One of the things that I didn’t know was that a judge can just copy the arguments of one side and claim them as his own. I also didn’t know that in your culture this can be a sign of intelligence, even brilliance.
No, no, no. The judge didn’t copy the arguments of one side; he copied the simple statements of fact from one side. Which only means that he agreed that those statements were accurate and supported by the evidence in the trial record. Nor did he “claim them as his own”. The written opinion begins with this statement:
This Memorandum Opinion constitutes the Court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law which are based upon the Court’s review of the evidence presented at trial, the testimony of the witnesses at trial, the parties’ proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law with supporting briefs, other documents and evidence in the record, and applicable law.
Every single finding of fact must be based upon what the two sides present in the case and on the evidence they submit in the trial record. The judge doesn’t invent his own findings of fact, he simply decides which of the two proposed findings of fact are best supported by the trial record. It is in his ability to discern fact from fiction in making that choice that one can tell how well he understands the issues presented.
Friends are allowed to disagree. It’s healthy. I’ve just learned a lot about your culture and your intellectual standards. Did you learn anything about mine?
Nothing that wasn’t already patently obvious long before now. Of course friends are allowed to disagree. But rational people take the time to learn about a subject before blathering about it in public.