Monday, January 09, 2012

Supremes rush toward right-wing precipice

The line in the news article was matter of fact:

… the high court ruled 5 to 4 along ideological lines …

New York Times, January 7

We live in a country in which we take for granted that judges simply implement their political views and call the result law. We once mocked countries unfortunately enough to have "judicial systems" that were routinely available for sale to the highest bidder (usually foreign companies) --we called them "Banana Republics." It gets harder and harder to see much difference between what happens in our Supreme Court and in those unfortunate environs.

Some instances from the Supreme Court::
  • Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas have openly participated in political strategy conferences sponsored by right wing billionaires.
  • Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Samuel Alito have lent themselves to fundraisers for right wing causes.
  • Perhaps most egregiously, Justice Thomas' wife was a paid lobbyist against the health care reform on which he will rule in the spring.
And we have a Chief Justice who says this is all hunky dory -- Supreme Court justices don't need to adhere to the same code of ethics that governs lesser beings on lower courts. If lower court justices engaged in such naked politicking, they'd be subject to charges under the federal judicial Code of Conduct -- though with a court like the one we have, it's hard to know whether anything would come of bringing charges.

The Alliance for Justice has produced a strong video about these issues available here.

As we advance into the 2012 political horserace season, progressives are going to be bombarded with messages that we have to get behind President Obama and other Democrats who seem hardly less bought-and-paid-for servants of the 1 percent than the Republican alternative. Exhibit A will be Justice Ruth Bader Ginzberg's upcoming 79th birthday and the danger that a court already friendly to plutocrats will become irrevocably so. Those warnings are something we probably have to heed if we want to live to fight another day. It will be nose-holding time again.

The Washington Monthly has jumped the gun on the genre with a terrific six part feature on "What if Obama loses? Imagining the consequences of a GOP victory." It's properly scary, nowhere more so than in the article about the courts. Slate reporter Dahlia Lithwick chronicles "the rise of a jurisprudence that skews pro-business, pro-life, anti-environment, and toward entangling the church with the state." The long Republican effort to make the judiciary an instrument to implement right wing policy preferences is nearly complete -- Democrats have been unfocused or just absent when it came to appointing judges who might be open to more equitable legal outcomes.

If you care about the future of abortion rights, stem cell research, worker protections, the death penalty, environmental regulation, torture, presidential power, warrantless surveillance, or any number of other issues, it’s worth recalling that the last stop on the answer to each of those matters will probably be before someone in a black robe.

Go read the whole thing. It is short and cogent.

1 comment:

Rain said...

This is it exactly. If we don't get ourselves on the ball with working to get Obama re-elected, we are fools. Yes, he has done much I didn't like, most of it too Republican like, but the alternative is unthinkable and the Supreme Court is part of it. The other thing is to rise up as people and sign one of the petitions trying to get a Constitutional Amendment that undoes their corporation personhood stretch of the imagination. Bush was quite successful in implementing the right wing agenda. He might be gone but the results of what he did live on and the US Supreme Court is a prime example.

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