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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Somewhere, Rick Santorum is NOT laughing.

Federal Judge John E. Jones II of Pennsylvania has disappointed conservatives again. A few years ago this item appeared in The New York Times:
Driving home one day last December from the courthouse in Harrisburg, Pa., Judge John E. Jones III tuned in to a radio news report about 11 parents in the nearby town of Dover who had filed a lawsuit challenging their school board's decision to include intelligent design in the high school biology curriculum. 
"It piqued my curiosity," the judge said. Not only was the suit likely to be the nation's first full hearing on the legal merits of teaching intelligent design, but it also had been filed in the federal court in Pennsylvania where he was serving. 
The next morning Judge Jones turned on the computer in his chambers and found that the case had been randomly assigned to him. 
"Any judge will tell you that they welcome the opportunity to have important cases on their dockets," he said in an interview. "That's why they take these jobs." 
Judge Jones presided over the six-week trial with discipline, decorum and a quick wit that produced eruptions of laughter. 
Next week he is expected to issue his decision, which will almost certainly be regarded as a bellwether by other school districts in which religious conservatives have proposed teaching intelligent design as a challenge to the theory of evolution. 
Legal experts said the big question was whether Judge Jones would rule narrowly or more broadly on the merits of teaching intelligent design as science. Proponents of the theory argue that living organisms are so complex that the best explanation is that a higher intelligence designed them. 
...Now this political hot potato has fallen into the lap of a judge who is highly attuned to politics. 
He is a lifelong Republican appointed to the federal bench in 2002 by President Bush. 
He ran for Congress 10 years earlier (he lost by one percentage point) and later considered running for governor. His supporters include Senators Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania*, and his mentor is Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania and homeland security secretary (emphasis added- Waldo). 
But Judge Jones is praised by people on both sides of the aisle as a man of integrity and intellect who takes seriously his charge to be above partisanship. He appears to define himself less by his party affiliation than by his connection to the Pennsylvania coal town where he still lives, and to a family that grabbed education as a rope to climb out of the anthracite mines, and never let go.
Jones ruled that "intelligent design" is just "creationism" with an extra syllable in an opinion so thorough it pretty much drive a stake through the heart of intelligent design litigation thereafter.

Now, relying on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent in the Windsor decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, Jones has overturned Pennsylvania's marriage equality ban. 

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* Back in the day, Santorum issued this press release:

Statement of Senator Santorum 
Santorum, Specter Laud Bush on Judicial Nominations to PA’s Middle District
John Jones and Christopher “Kit” Conner Among Bush Nominees 
Friday, March 1, 2002 
Washington D.C.–United States Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA), Chairman of the Republican Conference, and Arlen Specter (R-PA), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, today lauded the President on his nominations of John Jones and Christopher “Kit” Conner to the Federal Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. 
Both Senators said they support the President’s recent nominations and pledged to continue to urge Senate action on the current vacancies, a process which has been stalled by Senator Daschle and his colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee. 
“Attorneys Jones and Conner are highly qualified to assume the important role of Judge and the duty of protecting the Constitution and ensuring the effective operation of our judicial system,” Santorum said. “Since the onset of the war against terrorism, our federal judiciary has taken on an even higher level of importance, and it is imperative that we provide our courts with the resources necessary to enforce the rule of law. These judgeships are vital to our national security goals, and I urge my colleagues to work with the President to fill these vacancies in a timely manner.”


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