Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Role of the Supreme Court

Words of wisdom from a man who knows his history and the inner workings of the halls of government:

The entire supreme court idea has turned into a joke. The notion of a body dedicated to a more or less objective determination of certain things has been manifestly out the window for many decades. (If it ever really existed in fact rather than just the jurists' sense of self-importance). If it were really that kind of body, the ideological orientation of [a] new member of the court would not be as crucial as it is. But in fact the court has become the supreme legislative body of this country, from the decision of which there is no appeal. Thus, along with this role of the court, the notion of three coequal branches of gvt and a "separation of powers" has become a myth. The court is somewhat like the board of directors of a large company that makes all the major policy decisions, and then there is the executive (in this case congress and/or the presidency) which sort of more or less takes care of the implementing measures.

It is in fact almost the quintessential tyranny: Nine unelected people, serving for life, unremovable and unaccountable, have the unappealable power to decree whatever they wish to decree. The only requirement on them is that they must muster a majority among themselves and must cloth[e] their edicts in legal language and mumbo jumbo, pretending to a nonexistent degree of objectivity and "science".

So we have the spectacle of a 5-4 vote on gun control. Here is one person (One!) whose vote defines what is to be the "eternal verity of the constitution". If that one person would have been another person or if he/she had felt different that morning, "eternal verity" would have been the opposite of what was decided. So why bother with elections and other ways of counting what the people want?

There are so many problems confronting this country. But perhaps one of the most fundamental ones is a lack of realism. Its people pretend that they are governed by one system, when in fact they are governed by one in many ways closer to its opposite. How can things be set right if we are lying to ourselves?

My conclusion: The only saving grace, then, is that the courts are limited in practice to deciding cases put before them. (Although they can and sometimes do make a bigger issue--and make a bigger ruling--than the case calls for.) And perhaps they want the fiction of impartiality to survive, which deters open dictatorship.

I will dig up more from this excellent philosopher with whom I correspond and post more.

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