Today, I see the following on the home page of Reuters.com:
In an event at Reuters headquarters, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia strongly dismissed the idea that politics influences how the justices make their decisions, saying, “They vote that way because that’s who they are.”
This statement makes me incredulous. A U.S. Supreme Court justice is supposed to rule on the basis of the law as it exists, not as they wish it to be or to fit a particular political ideology.
Too often, we see matters before the court being dispatched with 5-4 decisions. This suggests that personal ideology is a strong influence over the outcome of matters before the court. Can the majority of decisions be that close? It’s why we can often predict outcomes before the evidence has been heard and the matter deliberated by the court. Do we expect more from our citizen juries that we get from the Supreme Court justices?
This is not what the framers of the U.S. constitution had in mind. The framers intended the Supreme Court be the one body in our federal government that could be impartial and look at legal issues brought before it without bias, not make the law but rule based on existing law and certainly not rule “because of who they are.”
It’s not “who they are” that should determine the outcome of matters before the court. It’s about their oath to uphold the law and consider matters impartially or recuse themselves should they be unable to do so.
Scalia’s comment reveals why there is distrust of the court. All courts should be a politically and ideologically-free zone. Today’s Supreme Court is not. How sad for all of us.
It’s sad because we have to worry about who is elected U.S. president as we know that the political ideology will be imparted to the justices they nominate and those justices who don’t deliver according to that ideology will be publicly-chastised for not playing along.
Chief Justice Roberts has opened a rift with Scalia over the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” Scalia feels betrayed by the Chief Justice as do other justices who believed “they could count on Chief Justice Roberts to vote down Obamacare.”
Chief Justice Roberts will likely be on the court for many years to come. I hope he tackles this issue of leaving politics and ideology at the door of the court house. He’ll be doing this nation a great favor.
What do you think?