Clipped From The Anniston Star
. What does Parker do with his time? BYJIMVICKREY Special to The Star What is my fellow churchman Tom Parker doing with his time? It's certainly not the work of an associate justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, the position for which he is being paid handsomely by taxpayers. Appellate cases go into his office at the Judicial Building and seem to disappear into a black hole of inexcusable inaction. So bad is his record of stewardship at the court that . through April 21 , he had authored only two published majority decisions. Two, not counting counting an "advisory opinion" last year, which was , not joined in by any other justices. Such a damning record of judicial inactivity would embarrass most judges on any court, especially one on a state's highest court. (Chief ' Justice Drayton Nabers, who spends half his time administering the unified court system, authored 12 times as many last year. The average average for 2005 of the other eight justices is 43.25.) Parker has thereby made himself the per- per- 1 sonification of Gladstone's admonition: "Jus-1 "Jus-1 "Jus-1 tice delayed, is justice denied." Justice, according according to Black's Law Dictionary, 6th ed., is "the constant and perpetual disposition of legal mat-, mat-, mat-, ters or disputes to render every man his sic due" (emphasis added). ' i , So what does Judge Parker do with all of the time he's not spending dispensing justice on the job? He devotes himself to such activities activities as personally attacking his fellow judges in newspaper essays for not doing what they are required by state and federal oaths and the U.S. " Constitution to do follow the precedents of higher courts. He insults the entire Alabama Bar, including me and every other lawyer in the state, by having distributed at its Good Friday Friday Hall of Fame induction ceremony a per sonal attack on late U.S. Supreme Court Justice and former U.S. senator from Alabama Hugo Black, an inductee chosen unanimously by the bar's 72-member 72-member 72-member governing board. Parker erroneously erroneously states that Black "personally launched the war to kick God out of the public square." Parker also continues misstating the factual and legal record of Justice Black's participation in religion cases of the hitter's court, which has never "ruled against prayer perse and ... Bible reading perse in public schools." It has ruled that officially sponsored ' prayer and devotional Bible reading reading are unconstitutional. If a judge can't get that distinction right, then he has no business being on an appellate court where such is the essence of its work. When he announced his last-minute last-minute last-minute intention intention to ask Alabamians to promote him to chief justice, Parker's "spokesman," not he, tried to explain away his abysmal inactivity in his pres-. pres-. pres-. ent job in this way: "Writing opinions ... is discretionary discretionary and Parker prefers principled quality of sir bureaucratic quantity"; moreover, he has "considered and voted'on just as many, cases as his colleagues " What that leaves out is that the primary work of any appellate court is to explain why it reached its carefullyiconsidered and researched conclusions of fact and law, on all but the most obviously unjustified appeals. Without such, neither lower courts nor lawyers would have definitive guidance regarding future legal disputes, disputes, which is the major part of the common law system, For Parker to argue that "writing opinions ... is purely discretionary" in all cases is to tell litigants and the people of Alabama they have no right of access to the rationales of cases. An appellate judge who does not write majority majority opinions is simply misusing his time. Furthermore, it is to fail to point out errors made by lower courts; harmonize decision rules used by the legal system; and ensure that results in one case are sufficiently principled to permit their application also to other, like cases. To perform his duties, he must issue princi pled opinions rather than press releases, by authoring opinions that his fellow justices can agree to join for the reason a former former Arkansas Supreme Court ' justice once described like this: Preparing "a formal opinion assures some measure of thoughtful review of the facts in a case and of the law's bearing ., upon them" and helps to avoid "snap judgments and lazy preferences preferences for armchair theorizing as against , library research and time-consuming time-consuming time-consuming cerebral effort." , The great English jurist Sir Edward Coke said: "Reason is the life of the law; nay, the common law itself is nothing else but reason." Determining the bases of decisions for future reference (something Justice Parker's provided just twice) is thus much more important than knowing how he feels about his personal relationship relationship with other members of his court or binding U.S. Supreme Court precedents or even Chief Justice Nabers or Justice Black. An appellate judge whd doesn't write majority ' opinions is simply misusing his time on the . court and ought to be ashamed of himself. Indeed, he ought to consider resigning if he cannot change his ways. ( . Jim Vickrey of Montgomery is a former college college president, a professor of rhetoric and a lawyer who has argued cases before the Alabama Alabama Supreme Court.