Just Justices

Isn’t it strange to watch Supreme Court justices acting with all the bias of ordinary people? I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising. What else do any of us draw upon but what we feel is conducive to our personal vision of the kind of world we want to live in? However, in pursuit of private preferences, it seems that some, at all levels of decision making, are more able than others to include the interests of their fellow beings.

Our hope has been that a high level of education in the law can create justices who operate with a wider perspective than their personal biases. Similarly, the hope is that the federal government represents a wider view than local levels, where local biases can hold sway. The US Supreme Court is doubly charged with defending the rights of the people: as the final representative of the Law and as the highest court of appeal in the land. But something has changed to derail this long-standing buttress of justice and fairness.

It is not just that some justices are liberal and some conservative and that their decisions reflect their values accordingly. There are justices on the Supreme Court who no longer represent a fundamental respect for the Law or the balance among the three branches.

We may not be able to follow the intricacies of how the three branches are meant to be balanced collaborators in a government for the people, by the people and of the people. But it’s not hard to see that the Supreme Court has collapsed in a more fundamental way than the fact that the justices are preponderantly conservative.

Their recent decision to remove from women and their doctors, health care decisions affecting their bodies, is not just a conservative orientation; nor is this week’s decision to allow presidential immunity for crimes against the rule of law. The former abandons half the human race to white men in power in local jurisdictions; the latter rejects the principle of separation among the three branches and the integrity of each.

There is a shocking boldness to this neglect of responsibility by the highest court in the land. As individuals, we all have responsibility to care about those who cannot defend themselves. For the Supreme Court, this responsibility is multiple. Completely central to their role is a perspective that is wider than their personal wants and aversions.

In the naked boldness of this new stance, they have not given away their own power. They are just allowing other sources of power to operate freely in ways that defame America’s reputation for justice and fairness. What they are giving up is their responsibility to defend those who cannot defend themselves. It’s as if a monitor from the 12th grade turns the other way so that bullies in the lower grades can pick on the most vulnerable kids in the school yard.

Their detailed arguments are too complicated for me to follow. But it’s not hard to see that these details constitute a web of argument that cloak interests in which little caring for others is present. The two most recent examples of the court absconding from its responsibilities, are not the only ones. Perhaps the clearest example of a missing human component in a Supreme Court decision is the Citizens United decision of 2010, which opened the floodgates for unlimited corporate support for corporate-leaning political candidates. For any human being with a heart, the difficult financial challenges faced by ordinary people are not morally equivalent to the financial clout of large corporations. Writing large checks to lobbyists, paying for vacations for Justices and legislators, and funding superPACs’, has no moral equivalence to paying for food, child care and rent. To claim that they do, is to make the Law a plaything of empty legal arguments while the lives of ordinary living beings gasp in the dying light.

To wonder what is going on in the minds of Supreme Court justices, is to watch as well-trained legal minds get sidetracked on the corporate sidings of legal argument, in order to justify the rights of entities who already have the upper hand. It is not the giant corporations, the male-dominated legislatures, or opportunistic presidents that need the courts to defend them. How tragic that the highest court in the land has now fallen onto the tracks left by Nero: fiddling with legal arguments while our world weeps for the unspeakable suffering of people, animals and our Mother Earth.

How tragic that the future of humanity and of democracy is being locked out of decision making as the already privileged are given even more power. The 2010 decision—treating corporate money as equivalent to human speech—was just as shocking as the 2024 decisions to kill Roe v. Wade and the ruling that gives presidential immunity. Defining the wealth of gigantic corporations as the equivalent of individual speech was a precursor to the recent ruling that creates presidential immunity for virtually any official act. In these decisions, we see an unravelling of support for people’s access to health care, nourishing food, clean water and air, and shelter; as if some of the current justices consider it their role to remove all obstacles for those with the greatest power–such as themselves–to pursue their self-serving agendas.

One comment to “Just Justices”
  1. So well stated. So hard to watch this heartbreaking disintegration… Thank you for giving voice to this.

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