The Supreme Court — Our Best Hope

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Now that Congress has ‘fallen into line’ and is pandering to Trump’s every whim, licking his boots and kissing his posterior, there is one last bastion of justice remaining:  the United States Supreme Court. Last year, after the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Republicans in Congress effectively blocked President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, by refusing to hold even preliminary confirmation hearings.  Thus, the position remained open when Trump took office, and it is now up to him to fill.  More about that in a bit.

scotusThe U.S. Constitution does not specify the number of Supreme Court Justices.  Article III of the Constitution established the Supreme Court, but left it to Congress to decide on the appropriate number of Justices.  The Judiciary Act of 1789 set the number at six: a chief justice and five associate justices. In 1807, Congress increased the number of justices to seven; in 1837, the number was bumped up to nine; and in 1863, it rose to 10. In 1866, Congress passed the Judicial Circuits Act, which shrank the number of justices back down to seven and prevented President Andrew Johnson from appointing anyone new to the court. Three years later, in 1869, Congress raised the number of justices to nine, where it has stood ever since. It has mostly worked well for 148 years.

Many of us are understandably concerned about the composition of the court these days.  There is already one vacancy for Trump to fill, a position for which he has nominated Neil Gorsuch.  But there are three other justices who are likely to retire from the court soon:  Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate-conservative who is 79, Justice Stephen Breyer, a liberal who is 78, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also a liberal who will be 84 next month.  The problem arises when we consider the way these justices tend to vote. All three have voted consistently in favour of human rights, civil rights and social issues.  If Trump had the opportunity to fill all three of these positions, in addition to the one already vacant, the court would be comprised of 7 conservative justices and only 2 liberal-leaning.  This would spell disaster for the LGBT community, for African-Americans, for immigrants, for women … for all of us, really.

 

On a positive note, tonight I was reading about an interview Justice Ginsburg gave to the BBC this week where she said … well, I will let her tell you in her own words:

“I read the Washington Post and the New York Times every day, and I think that the reporters are trying to tell the public the way things are. Our legislature – which is the first branch of government – is right now not working. I am optimistic in the long run. A great man once said that the true symbol of the United States is not the bald eagle. It is the pendulum. And when the pendulum swings too far in one direction it will go back. Some terrible things have happened in the United States but one can only hope that we learn from those bad things.”

Of the Women’s March on Washington, 21 January, she said:

“I’ve never seen such a demonstration – both the numbers and the rapport of the people in that crowd. There was no violence, it was orderly. So yes, we are not experiencing the best times but there is reason to hope that that we will see a better day.”

But the important part was …

“At my age you have to take it year by year. I know I’m OK. What will be next year? I’m hopeful however, because my most senior colleague the one who most recently retired, Justice John Paul Stevens, stepped down at age 90. So I have a way to go.”

ginsburgAt an appearance at George Washington University on Thursday night, Justice Ginsburg said, “we are not as mindful of what makes America great.”  So very true! Ginsburg stopped short of mentioning Trump or his policies directly, as she got into some hot water for that last year when she gave an interview critical of Trump and was taken to task for her candor:

“I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president. For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that. He is a faker. He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego. … How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.”

I always did like this woman!  She sees clearly the damage that is being done by the current administration, sees the unwillingness of Congress to stand against Trump, and is determined to try to stay on the court a few more years.  Let us hope that Kennedy and Breyer will do the same.  Though Kennedy is considered a moderate-conservative, he leans toward liberal in most social issues, so even if Gorsuch is confirmed, as is expected, we should still have a fairly well-balanced court.  For now. At least well-balanced enough to keep from overturning such important issues as voting rights, same-sex marriage, and Roe v Wade, which Trump has sworn to see overturned after 43 years.

gorsuchAs for Gorsuch, I suspect he will be conservative on most issues, but then so was Scalia.  But like Scalia, he is known for also being thoughtful and fair, so if Breyer, Kennedy and Ginsburg are able to stay in good health and willing to remain on the bench for a few more years, we should be alright.  But if one dies, retires, or otherwise vacates, all bets are off.  At present, all hope for maintaining the civil and social rights we have fought so hard for lies in the hands of the Supreme Court.

25 thoughts on “The Supreme Court — Our Best Hope

  1. Pingback: Happy Birthday Justice Kennedy … PLEASE DON’T LEAVE US!!! | Filosofa's Word

  2. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    ‘At present, all hope for maintaining the civil and social rights we have fought so hard for lies in the hands of the Supreme Court.’ …. this is the only entity standing between the USA BD and the USA AD … Before and after Drumpf ….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. (Replying from the UK). This was most interesting and informative, particularly to the outsider (Who still thinks ‘USA’ when the Supreme Court is mentioned, even though we have one of our own, but different).
    Regarding President Trump and Congress appearing to be at one with him, I would venture to say this:
    ‘Mid-terms’ 2018.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! A number of my readers are from the UK, as well as other countries across the globe, and what I have learned is that you guys tend to have a clearer picture of what is happening here in the U.S. than we often do. Perhaps it is, as the old saying goes, that we “cannot see the forest for the trees”. Or perhaps we are just all too angry to see clearly. And yes, I am hoping the 2018 elections oust much of the rat population in Congress, but two problems with that. First, I do not believe our democracy will survive for 2 years under the current policies/administration. Second, there are some reasons that the mid-term elections may not result in as much a sweeping change as we need/want. More about that to come … Thank you for reading and commenting! Always appreciated, and I especially enjoy the perspectives of those from outside the U.S.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hope these words, from ‘outside’ might be of some help.
        From my readings of US history and the social motivations of the many communities, there is a distinct heritage of independence which transcends government. This can go for better or for worse. However once in motion no US government can actually stop it. For instance, by all the ‘laws’ of the authoritarian rule-book, Nixon should never have been forced out of Office, and he could be a very shrewd operator; but of course fell to his demons. This administration is displaying a very clumsy attitude in its attempts to control events, true it has a currently loyal constituency but is doing little to win folk over (Compare with Reagan….even Bush jnr-on a good day).
        As for the mid-terms my ‘two-cents’ worth of advise, is Keep your powder dry. Turn your energies into organising to bring out the Vote and also influencing Congress & Senate by concerted postal & e-mail campaigns (NRA & Tea Party have been doing this for years).
        Also and above all now is the time to take a deep breath and engage with those on the opposite side who converse in words and not expletives. An mature exchange can breed Common Cause. This is actually so much you share over the disillusionment with the govt structures.
        Of course it’s not easy. But the USA is a young country (by World Standards) you are still in the formation stage. This episode can be swept away.
        Good luck and best wishes
        Roger
        PS: I fear our time in the UK is over. Our time on the stage is over. In the words of Galadriel ‘I shall go into the West and diminish’

        Liked by 1 person

        • Good perspective and advice! I do think we need to start now working toward the mid-terms, lest we get caught with our pants down, and we need to continually remind those who currently reside in Congress quite who they work for! I do this regularly, but sometimes wonder if my letters are even read. Still, one must try. As for engaging with those on the opposite side … 😦 I have, and a few are actually capable of civil discourse, but the majority are so ‘morally superior’ and will not listen, yet cannot state their own views. If asked to “tell me why you think this way” … they respond with “I don’t owe you an explanation”. I have had that conversation so many times … I finally gave up and with the exception of 2 or 3 of my more conservative friends, I don’t even bother any more. I wish I could understand the “why” of it all, but I strongly suspect that they themselves do not understand it. I think they got caught up in the frenzy of the moment and are simply determined not to back down. I don’t know how you can converse meaningfully in that context.

          As for the UK …. let’s not write it off quite yet. I think there are some interesting times ahead, some challenging times, for certain, but I’m not writing it off … you guys have survived many, many centuries … we are, by comparison, the new kids on the block. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • I could never quite get the ‘I don’t owe you an explanation’…the whole idea is to convince the opposition to come over to your side (Politics 101). You could be right about some who are not willing to admit they are not sure. I worked with a few back in the 1990s when against all sense in 1992 another lacklustre Conservative Govt was voted in. Two years down the road they were saying pitifully ‘But I thought I was making the right choice!’.
            If they won’t listen then the next fall back in mass-lobbying of the elected representative. This can be difficult as some folk are happy to spout on Facebook but when you try and get them to campaign by letter or e-mail they just huff and say ‘what’s the point’ and waffle about conspiracies to dump the mail. Still with the atmosphere as it is in the US it could be a fertile ground, particularly if you can mobilise ‘The Vote’.
            Thanks for your views from the outside, I hope you are correct because the general strategy at the moment seems to be ‘Errrr…..Yes! We’ll…do…something!!’

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, the “I’m not going to explain to you why …” mentality is a conversation-ender. And in truth, I am merely trying to understand, but they give me nothing to work with, so I no longer waste my time.

              As for the letter/email blitz … I have convinced a number of friends to join me in this, but the momentum fades quickly when we all receive form letters … the same one most every time. Some are now recommending daily phone calls, but that will be a last resort for me.

              And yes, the UK is in a bit of a quandry now, much the same as the US … we all bit off more than we can chew, and are wondering how to handle it. I have often said I would love to see the history books 100 years from now to see how this period is viewed in hindsight. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

              • My theory of lobbying belongs t another age, in that I feel is a strength. So rather than use the expected Form Letter, a person should devote (say) 30 mins to produce their own hand-written letter. It is hoped if they feel strongly 30 mins is not much time. The recipient is then confronted with X number and has to face the fact all these folk took ‘time’ to write this. If no reply is received (a this is a personal letter) a reminder is sent, and so forth……trouble is I never get any takers on my theory…ah creaky old me.
                The US may come out of this with just ‘a blip’ sort of comment, as I feel the cultural individualism matched with the dynamics of resources of the US will kick in.
                UK & Europe on the whole I fear will forget the lessons of WWI & WWII and will revert to squabbling (at best) small nations. With a Russia in one of her periodic resurgences, and the US concerned with her own re-build we will be very small indeed. (I base this on the sort of 1000 year patterns of history, like China, Ancient Egypt and so forth). But UK socialist can be a gloomy crowd and are never so content as when forecasting gloom and saying ‘Woe. Woe and Thrice Woe’.
                Just out of interest, what’s a ‘good’ ‘hotspot’ to go to view the internet debate in the US? I’d like to see what’s being said these days.

                Liked by 1 person

                • I agree with you on the form letter thing. I write my own, albeit on the computer, because if I handwrote it they wouldn’t be able to read it! But I did some research a few weeks ago, after receiving my 5th or 6th form letter from a representative in response to my letters, and found that many in Congress do not even look at the mail from their constituents. An aide opens it, presumably looks at it, answers with a form letter (some do not even do this), and that is the end of that. So, I understand why many feel it is a waste of time. Phone calls, I am told, are a better option, but one is likely to be ‘on hold’ for up to an hour!

                  I’m not quite sure what you mean by ‘internet debate’? Can you clarify a bit, and then maybe I can point you in a good direction!

                  Liked by 1 person

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