Nominee Is Critical of Big Government

Times Staff Writer

California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown made a name for herself in conservative circles by giving speeches that “stir the pot and get people to think,” as she put it two weeks ago during a Senate hearing.

Her favorite theme is big government, which she describes as “insatiable” and “relentless.” And unlike some conservatives, Brown has said judges should use their authority to rein in the government.

Her speeches and her record as a conservative judge won the attention of the White House, and President Bush nominated her to a seat on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which mainly decides disputes involving federal regulations. Brown’s Democratic critics, however, say her anti-government views make her the wrong choice for that court.


The Judiciary Committee is set to vote today on Brown’s confirmation. Here are excerpts from some of her speeches:

* “Where government advances -- and it advances relentlessly -- freedom is imperiled, community impoverished, religion marginalized and civilization itself jeopardized. I am not preaching anarchy. A little government is necessary, but a little government goes a long way.... Humongous government is not a good thing.... In the modern welfare state, the source of wealth and power is the government. Government acts as a giant siphon, extracting wealth, creating privilege and power, and redistributing it.”

-- Speech at Claremont McKenna College, Sept. 16, 1999

* “It now appears that human nature is so constituted that, as in the days of empire all roads led to Rome; in the heyday of liberal democracy, all roads lead to slavery. And we no longer find slavery abhorrent. We embrace it. We demand more. Big government is not just the opiate of the masses. It is the opiate -- the drug of choice -- for multinational corporations and single moms, for regulated industries and rugged Midwestern farmers and militant senior citizens.... It is my thesis today that the sheer tenacity of the collectivist impulse -- whether you call it socialism or communism or altruism -- has changed not only the meaning of our words, but the meaning of our Constitution and the character of our people....

“Democracy and capitalism seem to have triumphed. But, appearances can be deceiving. Instead of celebrating capitalism’s virtues, we offer it grudging acceptance, contemptuous tolerance, but only for its capacity to feed the insatiable maw of socialism....

Where government moves in, community retreats, civil society disintegrates, and our ability to control our own destiny atrophies. The result is: families under siege, war in the streets, unapologetic expropriation of property, the precipitous decline of the rule of law, the rapid rise of corruption, the loss of civility and the triumph of deceit. The result is a debased, debauched culture which finds moral depravity entertaining and virtue contemptible....

“I have argued that collectivism was [and is] fundamentally incompatible with the vision that undergirded this country’s founding. The New Deal, however, inoculated the federal Constitution with a kind of underground collectivist mentality. The Constitution itself was transmuted into a significantly different document ... in 1937, [which] marks the triumph of our own socialist revolution.”


-- Speech to The Federalist Society at the University of Chicago Law School, April 20, 2000

* “In the last 100 years -- and particularly in the last 30 -- the Constitution, once the fixed chart of our aspirations, has been demoted to the status of a bad chain novel. Government has been transformed from a necessary evil to a nanny -- benign, compassionate and wise.... My grandparents’ generation thought being on the government dole was disgraceful, a blight on the family’s honor. Today’s senior citizens blithely cannibalize their grandchildren because they have a right to get as much ‘free’ stuff as the political system will permit them to extract.... If we can invoke no ultimate limits on the power of government, a democracy is inevitably transformed into a kleptocracy -- a license to steal, a warrant for oppression.”

-- Speech to the Institute for Justice, Washington, D.C., Aug. 12, 2000