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Meet the Worst Judge in America

Posted on Nov 25, 2013

By Bill Blum

(Page 2)

After being elevated to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Sykes wrote a dissenting opinion in 2000, contending that the state had no duty to provide an adequate public school education for its students. Three years later, she urged in another dissent that a criminal conviction be upheld even though one of the jurors on the case spoke no English.

It was for good reason, then, that Sykes’ nomination to the 7th Circuit was opposed not only by the National Abortion Federation but also by the National Council of Jewish Women, which complained that Sykes had amassed a “judicial record … heavily influenced by her personal views.”

Sykes has remained true to form since arriving on the 7th Circuit after being confirmed by the Senate on a 70-27 vote, penning a 2007 majority opinion that compelled the Southern Illinois University’s School of Law to confer official student body recognition of a Christian legal society that had refused to admit anyone to a leadership position who openly engaged in fornication or homosexuality (the university had claimed the group’s rules violated its anti-discrimination policies). In 2011, she authored another majority ruling, holding that firing ranges are protected under the Second Amendment and that Chicago had run afoul of the amendment in banning them within city limits.

But it is the Obamacare ruling that has vaulted Sykes into the national spotlight and, hence, prompted her consideration for the prize of worst judge. The Supreme Court is currently considering whether to review three lower federal court cases on the contraception mandate. Sykes’ opinion will likely join the review.


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The Obamacare ruling has also sparked Republican interest in Sykes as a possible future high court justice. In a Washington, D.C., news conference Nov. 15, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, eyeing his party’s 2016 presidential nomination, suggested that if elected, he’d be inclined to appoint Sykes, who was in the audience at the time.

A day before Walker’s conference Sykes was also on view at the Federalist Society’s annual $200 per person, black tie National Lawyers Convention held in a swanky Washington hotel ballroom. During the festivities, she took to the stage for a rare one-on-one, 45-minute interview with none other than the normally silent Clarence Thomas for a folksy discussion of Thomas’ career. The joint appearance drew charges of ethical violations from liberal groups, which alleged that the two judges used the prestige of their offices to sell tickets to the event.

It is altogether possible that in the next few years, with a GOP victory in 2016 and the ultimate retirement of 80-year-old liberal stalwart Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sykes will be sitting next to Thomas on the bench of the Supreme Court. That’s a scary thought indeed—one that underscores my choice of Diane Sykes for the title of the country’s worst judge.

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