Normally, conservatives decry judges who insert their belief systems into their decisions as ‘judicial activists.’ This term has become a catch-all for everything that conservatives dislike about modern jurisprudence, especially when decisions go against their preferences. But Rudolph Randa, the Republican federal judge who ordered the bipartisan John Doe investigation of illegal campaign coordination in Wisconsin to shut down last week, has yet to wear the label even though he is definitely enacting a very political agenda. ThinkProgress noted yesterday that his past decisions, including the sentencing of a Democrat, show a very clear bias. And as Brendan Fischer of the Center for Media and Democracy notes today, Randa made extraordinary use of federal power in his decision.
Usually, under the judicial doctrines of comity and federalism, federal courts defer to state courts to interpret state statutes, and will abstain from interfering with state court proceedings interpreting state law.
But rather than letting Wisconsin courts resolve their own interpretation of Wisconsin statutes, or deferring to earlier state court decisions, federal Judge Randa intervened, and declared that Wisconsin statutes don’t ban coordination between issue ad groups and candidates.
Normally, conservatives get very upset when federal judges do this sort of thing. We have recently seen right wing activists object to federal agencies managing public lands in Nevada and Utah, arguing that those lands ought to be managed by the states. Yet none of them is up in arms today over what seems like a very cut-and-dried case of overweening federal power in Wisconsin, nor is Fox News likely to denounce what amounts to a green light for political corruption, because such a reaction would require moral consistency instead of ideological purity.