Thursday, April 5, 2012 | 2 a.m.
In February, President Barack Obama nominated state District Court Judge Elissa Cadish to the federal bench. It was a wise choice: Cadish has a sharp legal mind and has proven herself as a jurist in Clark County.
She should be a shoo-in but, as Sun columnist Jon Ralston reported, her nomination has been stalled. Senate tradition requires that both of a state’s senators must agree to allow a nominee a hearing, and Sen. Dean Heller has refused to do so.
Heller hasn’t publicly said why he doesn’t support Cadish, much less why he won’t agree to allow her a hearing. That’s wrong. He should explain his position. The federal courts are backlogged and in need of good judges. And Cadish, who was appointed to the state court by former Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons in 2007, is well qualified and more than capable.
Ralston reported that Heller is objecting to her answer on a 2008 campaign questionnaire that asked if she believed that “the individual citizen has a constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”
“I do not believe this is a constitutional right,” Cadish wrote. “Thus, I believe that reasonable restrictions may be imposed on gun ownership in the interest of public safety. Of course, I will enforce the laws as they exist as a judge.”
If that’s what Heller is really objecting to, thinking she is opposed to gun owners’ rights, he should think again and consider the context of her remarks.
In a letter last month to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Cadish noted that she wasn’t giving a personal opinion but was responding “based on my understanding of the state of federal law at the time.” When she filled out the questionnaire, the Supreme Court hadn’t issued a definitive decision on the issue. Given previous court decisions that existed, her conclusion was more than reasonable and a fair reading of the law at the time.
Since she filled out the questionnaire, the Supreme Court has issued two major rulings affirming an individual’s right to gun ownership, which Cadish noted in her letter to Reid.
“As a result,” she wrote, “if asked the same question today, I would say I believe that there is a constitutional right for individuals to keep and bear arms, and I would make clear that I would faithfully apply the binding precedent on this issue.”
So what does Heller object to?
Is he afraid that Cadish is an “activist judge” wedded to some sort of anti-gun ideology? If he is, he can be relieved.
In 2008, Cadish said she would “enforce the laws as they exist.” That’s why she answered as she did then and why she would answer the question differently now — because the case law has changed. And that’s exactly what a judge is supposed to do: apply the law to the facts at hand.
If Heller looks carefully at the situation, we believe he will realize that Cadish’s responses show why she would make a good federal judge: She hasn’t followed an ideological bent but has simply followed the law.
So why doesn’t she have his support?
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