Jun 28, 2012

Supreme Disappointments

Harold Meyerson has written an excellent opinion piece in the Washington Post that calls into question the blatant ideological stances Justices Alito and Scalia have taken in recent rulings.

The Supreme Court isn’t supposed to be political. As Chief Justice John Roberts said in his confirmation hearings, "I will remember that it's my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.” He viewed Supreme Court Justices to be similar to umpires in baseball. Their job is to make impartial, consistent rulings and not concern themselves with the political elements that a particular case may have. Their role is to observe from a distance and stay out of and above the fray. 

Republican appointed Supreme Court majority puts corporations above people.

Unfortunately, some members of the court don’t seem to share Chief Justice Roberts well accepted view of the Court and the role of its Justices. 

Take Justice Alito’s opinion in the recently decided Knox vs. SEIU, which was so expansive, he overturned long accepted practice and implied that unions should have to ask for nonmembers’ permission to collect political assessments and possibly any dues at all – an issue both sides in the case didn’t even remotely touch on. 

Harold Meyerson described why such an opinion was so appalling.

“Alito’s ruling struck at the heart of American unionism. By laying the groundwork for creating a right for nonmembers to avoid dues payments, he came close to nationalizing the right-to-work laws that 23 states have adopted (though 27 have not). As Sotomayor noted in a somewhat astonished dissent (Ginsburg and Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan dissented on this point as well), this wasn’t the question before the court. Neither side had argued that issue in their briefs or oral presentations. “The majority announces its novel rule,” Sotomayor wrote, “without any analysis of potential countervailing arguments.” And it did so in defiance of the court’s own Rule 14, which states that “only the questions set out in the petition or fairly included therein will be considered by the Court.” 

Remarkably, Justice Alito’s unprecedented remarks don’t stand alone. In Arizona vs. United States, also decided this past week, Justice Scalia wrote an even more concerning opinion. 

“The club champion for double standards, however, is not Alito but Antonin Scalia. Dissenting from this week’s decision striking down major provisions in Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, he argued that Arizona has the sovereign rights of a nation in protecting its borders — a right he gleans through such a bizarre reading of the Constitution that not one of his fellow conservatives signed on to his dissent. Yet the same day, Scalia signed on to a Gang of Five decision declining to hear Montana’s case that its century-old law banning corporate contributions to political campaigns should take precedence over Citizens United. In the world according to Nino, Arizona has the rights of a nation-state, but Montana must submit to the Gang of Five. You’re sovereign when Scalia agrees with you; you’re nothing when he doesn’t.” 

The last few Supreme Court rulings have made it crystal clear that Justices Alito and Scalia are using their positions as Supreme Court Justices to promote personal ideology

From Citizens United to Knox vs SEIU to Arizona vs. United States, Justices Alito and Scalia are using the bench to bolster the interests of corporations at the expense of average Americans. The fact that it’s so easy to question the legitimacy of or motives behind Supreme Court decisions underscores the realization that this branch of government has lost its way

The nation’s confidence in the Supreme Court relies on the assumption that they are impartial guardians of the Constitution. That confidence is put in jeopardy every time conservative members of the court choose to invent rather than interpret the law.

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