Lady Justice's blindfold - The Boston Globe JUDICIAL dispassion - the ability to decide cases without being influenced by personal feelings or political preferences - is indispensable to the rule of law. So indispensable, in fact, that the one-sentence judicial oath required of every federal judge and justice contains no fewer than three expressions of it: "I . . . do solemnly swear that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me . . . under the Constitution and laws of the United States, so help me God." Without judicial restraint there is no rule of law. We live under "a government of laws and not of men" only so long as judges stick to neutrally resolving the disputes before them, applying the law, and upholding the Constitution even when doing so leads to results they personally dislike. That is why the judicial oath is so adamant about impartiality. That is why Lady Justice is so frequently depicted - as on the sculpted lampposts outside the US Supreme Court - wearing a blindfold and carrying balanced scales. Time and again, Obama has called for judges who do not put their private political views aside when deciding cases. In choosing a replacement for Justice David Souter, the president says, he will seek not just "excellence and integrity," but a justice whose "quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles," would be "an essential ingredient" in his jurisprudence. In an interview last year, he said he would look for judges "sympathetic" to those "on the outside, those who are vulnerable, those who are powerless." When he voted against the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts in 2005, Obama declared that the "truly difficult" cases that come before the Supreme Court can be decided only with reference to "the depth and breadth of one's empathy," and that "the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge's heart." But such cardiac justice is precisely what judges "do solemnly swear" to renounce. Sympathy for others is an admirable virtue. But a judge's private commiserations are not relevant to the law he is expected to apply. Do you believe a judge should be empathic when passing out judgments?