Patrick Murphy is confused. He started out running for Attorney General of Pennsylvania. But somewhere along the line, he became convinced that he was running for the state Supreme Court. That’s because he’s apparently decided that he should be in a position to determine the constitutionality of laws. Which, as anyone who’s ever heard the words “Marbury” and “Madison” knows, is the sole province of the courts.
In an article discussing protests against the bill which would require women to undergo ultrasounds prior to obtaining an abortion, the former Congressman and army veteran is quoted as having said he wouldn’t enforce such a law because he doesn’t think it would be constitutional.
The problem is, that wouldn’t be Attorney General Murphy’s call. That might be Justice Murphy’s call, but as far as I know, he hasn’t decided to throw his hat in the ring and seek a spot on the high court (one that might possibly be vacated by one of the Orie Sisters…which, parenthetically, sounds like an act on the Lawrence Welk show.)
This hits close to home for me. I have a problem with lawyers who decide that it’s their job to decide what laws to enforce, and what laws not to, because of some private sense of constitutionality. Eric Holder and crew did it with the Defense of Marriage Act, thereby forcing House Speaker John Boehner to retain private counsel to defend the law in court.
We in the Bar may not like the way a law sounds. It may offend our sense of decency, fairness, and even practicality. But we don’t get to decide whether a law should be enforced or not simply because we think the Founders would have objected. Until we get to put on the robes of judicial office, our jobs are to do our best to enforce and apply the laws as written, not pre-empt them because they smell suspicious.
Patrick Murphy knows that. Or at least, he should.