On October 4, this year, the Supreme Court will begin its new session. Sitting on the court for the first time will be Elena Kagan, former U.S. Solicitor General and Dean of Harvard Law School. Kagan’s appointment was hotly contested by Senate Republicans, as usual, because she is not as fascist as they would like, and Reich-Wingers are just assholes in general.
The GOP has not only been quarrelsome and unreasonably belligerent towards Obama’s Supreme Court nominees, they’ve also held up or blocked an absurd amount of other federal judicial nominations for no reasons other than standard obstructionism and their desire to turn the U.S. into a quasi-democracy.
An analysis of the federal judiciary reveals a shocking dominace of convservative judges and Republican appointments. Republicans have appointed 60% of all current federal justices including two-thirds of the Supreme Court, and George W. Bush appointed a whopping 40% of all federal judges serving today! 10 of the 13 circuit courts are controlled by Republican-appointed judges while one circuit court is evenly divided. By the time Bush left office in January 2009, the Senate had approved 322 of his 333 nominations, a 97% approval rate. So far, however, only half of Obama’s nominees have been approved. But this is expected from the Party of No! whose explicit mission is to halt the government and cripple the Obama presidency in a cynical attempt to regain power. As Republican Senator Trent Lott said, “The strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail. So far it’s working for us.” But, hey, at least he doesn’t pretend to care about the country; he wears his douche right on his lapel.
As the new SCOTUS session begins, this is a good time to review the composition of the court and what implications its rulings will likely have on society. The New York Times ran a good piece on the court in July and it’s worth reviewing now.
First, the article identifies the qualities that define conservative and liberal courts. Liberal courts will make rulings that favor criminal defendants, unions, people claiming discrimination, or civil rights violations. Conservative courts will strike down economic regulations (shout out to Wall Street!!!) while favoring prosecutors, employers, and the government. So, er, yeah, conservative courts favor big government and big business while liberal courts favor … citizens and fair capitalism. Imagine that.
The current court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, is the most conservative court in history. While courts cannot be defined by individual cases, they can be assessed by trends and the Roberts trends are unambiguous. Among the highlights: the Roberts court issued conservative opinions in 65% of its cases last year. By contrast, the Warren court (1953-69) – considered to be the most liberal in history – made conservative rulings 34% of the time. The Roberts court consists of four of the six most conservative justices in history (Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas). According to former justice John Paul Stevens, every justice appointed since 1975 – including himself – has been more conservative than his predecessor.
The ramifications of such a conservative court are stark and broad. According to the article:
“If the Roberts court continues on the course suggested by its first five years, it is likely to allow a greater role for religion in public life, to permit more participation by unions and corporations in elections and to elaborate further on the scope of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. Abortion rights are likely to be curtailed, as are affirmative action and protections for people accused of crimes.”
Moreover, the Roberts court is responsible for disposing of campaign finance reform legislated by Congress. This ruling classified corporations as people, declared campaign donations to be free speech, prohibited caps on campaign donations, permitted foreign peoples/corporations to donate to American political campaigns, and allows donors to remain safely anonymous as well as not requiring politicians to reveal the people/corporations who are financing them. Democracy for sale? You betcha. If you didn’t already think the Fortune 500 controlled this country, you should be convinced by now.
For decades we’ve been hearing the Reich-Wing echo chamber whine about ‘liberal, activist courts.’ That meme is the typical mindless rhetoric popular amongst conservatives and, shockingly, despite having the most conservative court in history, 30% of Americans think the Supreme Court is still not conservative enough and 50% channel their inner-Goldilocks and think the court’s ideology is “just right.”
The Supreme Court was dealt a death blow with the appointments of Roberts and Alito. Don’t ever let it be said that GW Bush didn’t fuck us on the poopdeck in every way he possibly could. It’s going to take generations for us to recover from the damage he inflicted, if we ever recover at all.