Monday, July 13, 2009

Why does evidence matter?

At Bench Memos, Wendy Long shares some questions from Cathy Cleaver Ruse regarding a question Judge Sonia Sotomayor asked regarding the case against the federal ban on partial-birth abortion.
In the case, National Abortion Federation v. Ashcroft, the National Abortion Federation claimed that partial-birth abortion was the safest abortion method in some cases and therefore the law banning the practice was unconstitutional. The Department of Justice requested the medical records to back up this claim with all identifying information regarding the patients removed. The partial-birth abortionists refused to provide any records with evidence to support their claim. As Cathy says: "This was tantamount to arguing that they should win the case on their word alone."

The District Judge ruled that the abortion providers should produce the medical records. That decision was appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Sotomayor sat on the appellate panel. During oral argument, according to the Associated Press (April 22, 2004), she stated: "I just don’t understand what the records will prove in this case."

Says Cathy: "What the records would prove is whether or not the partial-birth abortion doctors were telling the truth. It is irresponsible for a judge to insist that one side in a case merely be taken at its word, especially when evidence is readily available to corroborate or impeach its statements. Appellate courts are particularly unsuited to second-guessing the decisions of the trial court regarding evidence of this nature."

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