In that light, I want to commend Kennedy for speaking out on the Darfur crisis in his keynote address at the American Society of International Law conference (H/T: Melissa Waters). He also apparently spoke on issues of social justice and the abandonment of civility in discourse.
In his keynote address to the ASIL Annual Meeting today, Justice Kennedy focused on the international crime of genocide, all but calling on the world community to do something to stop the ongoing atrocities in Darfur. It was a stunning -- and I thought compelling -- speech for a sitting justice.
As reported by the AP, Kennedy stated:
"It is the duty of the world to do more than watch," he said.
Kennedy said that after the genocide in Rwanda "the world wept but little, and then went on its way."
I was struck by the tone of Kennedy's remarks, which he delivered soberly and without reference to notes. They appeared to be from the heart -- the thoughts of a man genuinely troubled by the incivility of discourse in the world, with the persistence of extreme poverty, and with erosion in the rule of law. Kennedy demonstrated that he has been deeply affected by his experiences with judicial exchanges in Europe and in his more recent role on the UN special panel promoting access to justice for the poor.
Apparently, the trend for sitting Justices who attend the conference is to speak on the role of international law in judicial opinions. Kennedy is a particular lightening rod in this controversy, so I'm sure he could have said a lot (though that also may be the reason why he largely declined to speak). But while that debate is important, I think the themes Kennedy touch on transcend an ultimately minor point of jurisprudential wrangling.
I'm rather late to the party here, because this news broke on March 31st. But reading about this makes me even more proud to call myself a Kennedy supporter. We just seem to share the same values. Even though he's far more conservative than I am, I feel confident that Justice Kennedy does not let his political ideology or personal dispositions infect his sense of what is right. That's really important to me.
A lot of my liberal friends, even when they acknowledge the good Kennedy has done in Church/State and gay rights cases, say they can't forgive him for Bush v. Gore. I'm sorry, but while I too think that case was a travesty, it's time to get over it. Kennedy is a stellar Justice and a fine citizen. He deserves our support.