Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Encounters With the Almost-Famous

Here’s where I get to say I know Lee Yeakel. When I was in law school, I clerked for him. He wasn’t a judge then; I had no idea he’d ever be one. In fact, this was long enough ago Lee and I and his then-young son went to the theater on a weekday to see “Aliens.” It was the only "Alien" movie I ever saw in the theater (except for "Prometheus," but that doesn't even count as a movie.  I took my daughter to that one, a sort of echo of seeing "Aliens" with Lee and his son.).

I remember how much Lee loved a good argument, about politics or law. Lee was an active Republican and I was a yellow dog Democrat, so we argued often after hours. We also argued over Roe v Wade. He couldn’t accept the legal reasoning of the case. But as the article makes clear, he has always upheld it (and it’s progeny) as a Federal judge. Even though he was appointed by George W. Bush.

I haven’t seen Lee since before my daughter was born, which is my loss.  But I've admired his fairness and his work as a judge, what little I've seen of it.  Most of what a judge does never gets reported in the newspapers, and what does get reported about court cases is often distorted and wrong (I know this from personal experience).

Dahlia Lithwick has a more extensive quote from Lee's opinion ruling against the state's position:

“Regarding a woman’s right to a pre-fetal-viability abortion, the Supreme Court has spoken clearly. There can be no outright ban on such a procedure,” Yeakel wrote. “This court will not speculate on whether the Supreme Court included a silent ‘except-in-a-national-emergency clause’ in its previous writings on the issue.”

That sounds like Lee, as I remember him.  The State of Texas tried to argue that the exigency of the coronavirus crisis meant PPE and surgical masks needed to be diverted from abortion clinics to hospitals and ER's.  Lee was having none of it:

The benefits of a limited potential reduction in the use of some personal protective equipment by abortion providers is outweighed by the harm of eliminating abortion access in the midst of a pandemic that increases the risks of continuing an unwanted pregnancy, as well as the risks of traveling to other states in search of time-sensitive medical care.
As I recall Lee was never so much against abortions, as he didn't like the legal reasoning used to support them in Roe.  He was always much more conservative in his politics than I was (and I'm more liberal now than I was then), but he was never blindly ideological.

It's good to see that Lee is remaining true to what the law requires, and continuing to tell the State of Texas (this isn't the first time) that what the crazies like Paxton want to do is something up with which he will not put.

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