Who is Laurence H. Silberman, the judge who has just written a ruling for the DC Appellate court upholding the President’s healthcare law?
He is a judge who came of age at the time when conservatives were responding to the activism of the Supreme Court in the 50′s and 60′s. He is a significant member of the conservative legal world, with membership in the Federalist Society and with a record of service in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations.
The ruling he perhaps was most famous for before this one was when he ruled that DC’s gun ban was too restrictive and violated the 2nd Amendment. The case was eventually taken up by the Supreme Court and Silberman’s ruling was affirmed.
But Silberman has been in politics for much longer than just the past decade. It could be argued that some of the more profound and significant events in his career occurred much earlier. In 1974, two years after the death of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, Silberman (who back then was the Deputy Attorney General) was directed by Congress to read the secret files the Hoover kept on public figures.
Silberman recounted that time as “the single worst experience of my long governmental service.” Adding:
Hoover had indeed tasked his agents with reporting privately to him any bits of dirt on figures such as Martin Luther King, or their families. Hoover sometimes used that information for subtle blackmail to ensure his and the bureau’s power.
I intend to take to my grave nasty bits of information on various political figures–some still active. As bad as the dirt collection business was, perhaps even worse was the evidence that he had allowed–even offered–the bureau to be used by presidents for nakedly political purposes.
It would be particularly ironic if liberals used the new court ruling to rehabilitate their image of Silberman. Suffice to say, they have not always had a high opinion of him. He was appointed by George W. Bush to the Iraq Intelligence Commission in 2004 and was the target of a lot of liberal criticism. A Michelle Goldberg piece from 2004 argued that “Silberman has a reputation as a fierce ideologue who doesn’t let his judicial responsibilities get in the way of his Republican activism.”
Evidently, his “Republican activism” includes upholding President Obama’s signature legislative achievement.