The Last Best Hope — Gone?

The Supreme Court of the United States, sometimes referred to as SCOTUS, is one of the three branches of the federal government and is intended to be the most independent.  The legislative branch, Congress, makes the laws.  The executive branch, the president, enforces the laws.  The judicial branch, the Courts, determine the constitutionality of the laws.  The judicial branch was always intended to be almost completely independent of the politics that so heavily influence the other two branches.  Thus, judges “… shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.” They cannot be fired, except for bad “behaviour” and their pay cannot be reduced by either Congress or the president.  They are not elected; thus they owe no allegiance to any political party nor any individual.  In theory, anyway, they vote according to their conscience and their independent interpretation of the Constitution.

Today, I must question the independence of the Supreme Court.  As the current term winds down, a number of key decisions have been handed down in recent days, and the important ones, the ones we needed to be watching, have given at least the appearance that the Court has lost its independence and is falling into line with Donald Trump’s ‘policies’, such as they are.  Congress was in Trump’s and his donor’s pockets since the day the session of the 115th Congress began, and we can only hope to change those dynamics in the November mid-terms, but if the Court has fallen prey to him also, there can be no hope for a ‘fix’ in the foreseeable future, since the Justices are lifetime appointments.

Very briefly, here are some of the rulings I find very troublesome:

Trump v Hawaii

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld President Trump’s travel ban by a 5-4 vote.

In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the ban was “squarely within the scope of Presidential authority under the INA,” referring to the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The court said that Donald Trump’s obvious hostility toward Muslims, as expressed in numerous tweets and speeches, could not be considered.  In a nutshell, Roberts said in his 92-page opinion, that Trump has the broad authority to do what he deems necessary in the interests of “national security”.  My response is the obvious:  99.9% of people coming here from those nations are immigrants seeking the safe haven that is promised on the Statue of Liberty and pose no threat to national security.  This ruling simply gave the nod to Trump’s ethnic and religious biases.  If you’re interested, you can read the full opinion here.

Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission

In the case of the baker, Jack Phillips, who refused to bake a wedding cake for the wedding of a same sex couple, the court ruled in favour of Mr. Phillips, but not necessarily because the court felt he had the right to withhold his services in a discriminatory manner.  The ruling came  because the court believed the Civil Rights Commission had failed to treat Mr. Phillips with ‘fairness and impartiality’. The court did agree that the baker’s refusal to serve his customers was an act of discrimination that violated Colorado state law.  In a nutshell, the decision was a cop-out, leaving the door open for more cases of this nature.

Janus v AFSCME

The Court ruled Wednesday that government workers who choose not to join a union cannot be charged for the cost of collective bargaining.

This ruling, while on the surface may seem to be sensible, greatly reduces the strength of public employee unions in collective bargaining.  Since a 1977 ruling, even non-union employees have been required to pay partial union dues because, any gains as a result of collective bargaining benefit all, even those who chose not to join the union.  Now, where is the incentive to join the union, when non-union employees will share the benefits without having to pay the cost?  The full opinion, all 83 pages, can be found here.

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment forbids “racial gerrymandering,” that is, intentionally assigning citizens to a district on the basis of race without sufficient justification.  There were four gerrymandering cases before the court this month:

Abbott v Perez

The court ruled that the state of Texas does not have to redraw their district maps.

Gill v Whitford

The court ruled that the state of Wisconsin does not have to redraw their district maps, though they remanded the case back to the lower courts for further review.

Benisek v. Lamone

The court ruled that the state of Maryland does not have to redraw their district maps.

North Carolina v Rucho

The court declined to rule on the gerrymandering case and remanded the case back to the lower courts.

Make no mistake … the failure of the court to defy the gerrymandered district maps and order redrawn maps is a nod to racism and a deterrent to a fair election in November and beyond.  Racism is alive and well in this nation, folks.

These are the major cases that the Supreme Court ruled on this month, most in just the last few days.  Every single one was ruled in favour of conservative ideology, and most were a 5-4 ruling along partisan lines.  And now this …

Justice Anthony Kennedy to retire from Supreme Court

Although Kennedy is known as a conservative thinker, he is the most moderate on the bench.  His vote has been a tie-breaker in many high-profile cases, including Obergefell v Hodges, making same-sex marriage legal throughout the land.  His has been the swing vote in cases involving civil rights, human rights and social issues.  Kennedy voted to reaffirm the core holding of Roe v. Wade in 1992. I wrote a post about Kennedy and his potential retirement in July 2017, where I expressed grave concerns about his rumoured retirement, as well as the fact that Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Steven Breyer, both liberal-leaning justices, were both well past the normal age of retirement. Anthony-KennedyThis news stuns me, though I should not be surprised … am not surprised.  But the bottom line here is that now Trump has another Supreme Court vacancy that he will fill with … another who will vote as Trump wishes.  We have now, it would seem, lost the independence of the judicial branch in my opinion.  What more can Mr. Trump find to destroy, I wonder?

46 thoughts on “The Last Best Hope — Gone?

  1. Dear Jill,
    The best we can do is to contact over and over again the democratic senators who are vulnerable because they are running in a republican district as we need to keep them in line. We can’t afford to lose their votes. This includes the Senators Joe Manchin from WVA, Heidi Heitkamp of ND, Joe Donnelly of IN, and Clair McCaskill of MO.

    If we get just one republican, we have a better chance to delay confirmation. Republicans say what Sen. McConnell did in 2016 is not the same as this situation because this is not a presidential election year. My answer is that he likes winning at all costs to where he was willing to beak precedent and rules at the drop of a hat. We are just following in his footsteps.

    Frankly a 4 to 4 split in the Supreme Court is the best we can do, anyway.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

    • This one really makes me nervous. I thought Flake was going to come to th rescue, but he wimped out for whatever reason. This is not one bit different that what McConnell did in 2016. McConnell is the most disgusting ‘man’ in Congress at the moment … well no, perhaps Nunes is worse, but McConnell needs to GO … OUT! We are going to end up with a court that will overturn Roe v Wade, overturn Obergefell v Hodges, and condone massive discrimination in the name of “religious freedom”, while we are powerless to do anything to stop it. And Gorsuch, as well as any new appointments, will outlast you and I. Could somebody please just shoot Trump???


  2. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    It seems to me that the Drumpf virus has crossed organisms and infected the judicial branch!
    ‘The judicial branch was always intended to be almost completely independent of the politics that so heavily influence the other two branches. .
    I do not recognize this nation anymore … #BeyondSad …

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Trump Effect in government is similar to the domino effect. Remember placing the dominoes upright in a row, then hitting the first one and watching the whole line topple over. First is Trump as the executive or presidential domino, then the legislative or congress domino and lastly the judicial or courts domino…Trump has now effectively completed his domino effect, they have all toppled over. In a game with dominoes it is fun, in our government it is a disaster!

    Liked by 2 people

    • What an apt analogy!!! Yes, of course I remember dominoes … I never could get mine to go around curves like some could, but you’re right … it was great fun! Trump’s game of dominoes is much less fun … in fact, it is ulcer-inducing! Sigh. Hugs, my friend!


      • As an outsider, my opinion must be limited, for I know only what I read, but I would hate to see that happen. If it does, the United States must certainly shoulder a large portion of the blame at this point, in large part for pulling out of the Iran deal and the Paris cliimate accords. What are your thoughts, as one who lives there? Do you see the EU as a positive thing in terms of economics and security?


        • Mr Trump preaches every man for himself and perhaps he encapsulates the American dream. Now the dream seems just a dream many cling to him in the hope he may make the dream materialise again turning us into super-consumers. Europe has the same never ending worship of progress and production must ever rise no matter what the cost might be. Anyone or anything that threatens the dream is dangerous , so migrants , foreigners, climate change , antibiotic resistance , are all to be resisted as dream- blockers. In essence it’s a prosperity gospel preached by the secular world leaders , who vi with each other for the top place.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Perhaps my view is simplistic, but it seems to me that it is more important we all learn to live together, to give-and-take when needed, and in this way we can solve some of the problems that face the world. I see climate change, Ebola outbreaks, poverty etc., as being of far greater importance than capitalism, “progress” and the other things the 1% deem important. Trump has no understanding of the major issues, nor does he care to. I think … I hope … that Merkel, Macron, May, and the other leaders on your side of the pond are much smarter and more attuned to the needs of humanity than Trump is. He wanted isolationism, and it appears he is about to get it, even though the majority in this nation do NOT want it and understand that we cannot survive as an island with no allies.


            • You are absolutely correct in your assessment of the global situation . Way back in 1972 a book called Limits to Growth was published and it has sold millions of copies , it made the following conclusion among others:
              ‘ If we carry on business as usual by 2072 there will be a sudden and uncontrollable decline both in population and industrial capacity.’
              In the UK in 1945 about 2% of the population went to university and gained degrees, now we have 50% just what sort of madness is this ?
              Go ahead is now given to build a third runway for London Airport so more and more of us can take to the air because it is essential for business and expansion. I wonder how many hospitals could be built and updated for the cost of that runway. We need to call a stop to progress unless it is for humanitarian purposes .

              Liked by 1 person

              • Yes, I agree, but you and I both know that it won’t happen if left to the whim and will of humans. Corporate greed is state-sanctioned in the Western world and has already gotten so far out of hand that it is uncontrollable. More is not always better, but the wealthy and the ‘wannabe’ wealthy it is, or so they think. They make up lines to justify ignoring the things that are destroying us, like “the poor are poor because they are lazy”, and “the earth is just going through one of its many phases and will right itself as it always has.” It gives them comfort to say these things, for then they can go on about their business without guilt. There are some exceptions, but they are far too few. And so, it seems that humans will bring about their own extinction, perhaps sooner than later. I tend to think that the human experiment has failed miserably until I look around and see all the good people who are spending most of their time trying to make positive change, trying to make the world a better place. Who wins in the long run? Stay tuned …


  4. Very sad indeed. I am surprised that Kennedy would retire while Trump is in office. But John is right: we need to make sure the President has a new Congress soon which will thwart his will.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m a little confused, admittedly, by Kennedy at this moment. His votes for the last few weeks have all been toward the conservative. I thought for certain he would vote against the travel ban, but he didn’t. I don’t know what I’m not seeing, but there is something behind the curtain, I think. Trump, of course, is ecstatic. Look for him to try to shove a nominee through very quickly before the mid-terms.


      • I dare say there is something behind the curtain! Can you imagine how taxing it must be to work in Washington these days and have to deal with the mess this president and Congress are serving up?? Kennedy’s health may be poor. Mine would be!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Indeed … I wouldn’t last a month anywhere in D.C. — I imagine even the air is toxic. Did you see the article last week about some study that was done and they determined that D.C. has the most psychopaths in the nation? Are we surprised? I think not. Yes, my health would be, too … heck, just watching the circus from the sidelines is playing havoc with mine.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I do wonder what sorts of pressure were brought to bear against Kennedy to vote “appropriately.” This might go a long way to explaining not only his vote but also his decision to retire!! (I am just a slight nudge away from becoming a conspiracy theorist!!)

            Liked by 1 person

            • No, I don’t see the questions you’re asking as bordering on conspiracy theory, for they are valid questions that I have been asking for the past 24 hours also. Something happened that we aren’t seeing, for even in poor health, they will be off for the rest of summer, and he would only have 2 more months on the bench until the midterms … why did he choose to retire now instead of November? Something doesn’t smell good. 👃

              Liked by 1 person

    • For starters that is our hope. But Part B of that is that we need to win a majority in the Senate in November so that we can keep Trump from putting a relatively young, uber-conservative on the bench. When he nominated Gorsuch, I thought he might not be too bad, for his background indicated he was more moderate than ultra-conservative, but we see now how wrong I was on that! There’s no way Trump will nominate a liberal-minded judge, but we can at least try to insist on a moderate, similar to Kennedy. But first things first … yes, we need to block any nominations that come before November, then we need to win a majority in the Senate. Sigh. I wish I felt optimistic about either of those.

      Liked by 1 person

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