Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Another take on the Supreme Court Decision

In the midst of the energetic discussion about last week's Supreme Court decision, there was an important argument that was missing.  Today I heard that argument from retired Supreme Court Judge Sandra Day O'Connor (left).

Full disclosure: I'm not an over-the-top fan of O'Connor.  Do I wish she were back on the court instead of her replacement, Samuel Alito (right)?  Of course I do.  I appreciate that she generally upheld Roe v Wade.  I was happy when she was in the majority in the Lawrence v. Texas case, which made unconstitutional anti-sodomy laws in the United States, thus guaranteeing equal treatment under the law for LGBT people.  However, I still can't forget (nor forgive) her role in Bush v. Gore in 2000, the Supreme Court case that decided a presidential election.

Perhaps it is because O'Connor is not a knee-jerk critic of the Supreme Court that makes her words so persuasive. While O'Connor hasn't explicitly expressed her opinion on the Supreme Court decision last week, she has suggested that people read her decisions to understand how she feels.  And she must feel discouraged, at the very least, since the Supreme Court overruled a decision that she wrote about the role of corporate campaign donations.

What she did state explicitly in her speech this week was her concern about the increasing lack of impartiality of the judiciary.  About 80% of the judges in the United States are elected.  Now that there are no caps on corporate campaign donations, the implications for our judicial system are profound.  The ability to "buy a judge" has been made quite easy; the idea that judges might decide what they feel is popular rather than what they feel is right has become a great threat.  This dramatically makes the balance of powers in our government quite unbalanced.  And since the judiciary has typically stood for the rights of the minority more than the other two branches of government, we can only imagine the negative effect this ruling will have on the civil rights of those groups who are not popular.

This decision becomes more disturbing every day.

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