Laws, Norse and Godwin’s

I don’t think I need to expound here on what I think about yesterday’s decision by a U.S. District judge that California’s Proposition Eight marriage protection measure is unconstitutional. The judge’s name is Walker, which is (I hope) irrelevant. I’m not sure that it’s also irrelevant that he’s an open homosexual (appointed by the first President Bush—thanks again, George).

It’s tempting to call the whole thing unfair because the judge must have been biased. But if the judge were heterosexual, would that be less biased (though I’d expect a straight Ninth District judge to rule pretty much the same way)?

Any issue of gender has to be one where it’s hard to find anybody neutral. I don’t think we have a lot of eunuch judges available (though my knowledge of judges is limited).

But it reminds me of another issue involved in Njal’s Saga, about which I wrote yesterday. A common way of settling a legal dispute in the sagas (I’ve used it several times in my novels, because it cuts through a lot of red tape) is to offer “self-judgment.” Self-judgment is an option when you’re up against another man and have a sneaking suspicion you’re in the wrong, or that you’re representing someone who’s in the wrong. You can’t apologize, because that isn’t done in an honor-based culture. But if your opponent is an honorable man, it can be a shrewd strategy to offer him self-judgment—to say, “Set your own price on your injuries, and I’ll pay it.”

Offering self-judgment pays a compliment to your opponent (you’re publicly demonstrating that you consider him fair-minded. And if he asks an outrageous fine, he’ll forfeit some of the honor you’ve just paid him).

I don’t think Judge Vaughn Walker is someone I’d offer self-judgment to.

One further item—
my Australian friend Hal Colebatch has a new column up at The American Spectator. It’s called “Don’t Be Scared of Godwin’s So-Called Law,” and deals with the common “rule” (which I’ve never known liberals to observe for themselves) that it’s always out of order to bring Nazis into a political discussion. Colebatch says, oh no it isn’t.

Try mentioning to a euthanasia advocate that the Nazi extermination program started off as an exercise in medical euthanasia. And as for suggesting that Jews and Israel are in danger of a second holocaust if Muslim extremists have their way, just wait for: “Godwin’s Law!” “Godwin’s law!” repeated with a kind of witless assumption of superiority reminiscent of school playground chants.

Worth reading.

7 thoughts on “Laws, Norse and Godwin’s”

  1. It’s tempting to call the whole thing unfair because the judge must have been biased. But if the judge were heterosexual, would that be less biased

    The law isn’t just about impartiality. It is also about the appearance of impartiality. The judge should have recused himself, simply to avoid this kind of suspicion.

  2. Hal Colebatch: Other statistics show an increase in anti-Jewish hate-crimes all over Europe. How is one to talk of this kind of thing without Nazi analogies coming into it?

    Ori: The only similarities are in the identity of the victims and the geography. From what I remember, most modern European antisemitism is Muslim, from a population that is taking Europe over. That is very different from the Nazis, who were culturally German. Another difference is that there are more places to flee now than there were during the great depression.

    The best analogy is not to the Nazis, but the treatment of Jews in Arab countries.

  3. Lars, a straight judge wouldn’t be affected to the same degree. Judges often have vested interests in political cases, it is hard for things to be otherwise. But the stronger the vested interest, the worse the judge is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.