Gov. George Deukmejian's narrow response (Letters, Oct. 6) to Warren Christopher's comments (Editorial Pages, Sept. 23) on the governor's opposition to Justice Joseph Grodin rests wholly on the single issue of capital punishment. No inkling of the varied and profoundly vital social issues which the California Supreme Court has ruled upon during Grodin's tenure, only capital punishment.
Suddenly, that former anathema of conservatives, the liberal Justice Stanley Mosk, emerges as the Duke's criterion against which Grodin (and Justices Rose Elizabeth Bird and Cruz Reynoso) is to be measured and found wanting, again on the single issue of the death penalty.
Would the good governor submit to an evaluation of the records of Justices Grodin, Bird and Reynoso on the same yardstick--agreement with Mosk--in all the decisions that the court has made during the years in which the three have served on the Supreme Court? I think not. They each have popularly supported records in matters of civil rights, preservation of the ecology and natural resources, minority rights, social welfare and consumer programs, and more.
It is precisely because of their records in areas other than capital punishment that the three justices are now in disfavor in certain powerful circles. But, rather than assault their records in a broad spectrum of popular decisions, the single issue of the death penalty is the only one upon which their detractors are focused in their intense efforts to remove them from the court.
If California loses three dedicated and conscientious judges and an independent judiciary in the bargain, it will be because a majority of California voters will have been misled to believe that the state's right to asphyxiate convicted murderers has a higher priority than the economic and social welfare of all the people of California.
If the justices are voted out of office, will the governor appoint replacements using as his criterion only their approval of capital punishment? Of course not. He will appoint people who will serve the interests of the very people now so diligently at work in their effort to remove Justices Grodin, Bird and Reynoso.
We may gas a few more people in California but for that doubtful privilege we will pay a heavy penalty in terms of social progress for many years to come.