Tag Archives: Supreme Court

Elect federal judges? Oh, please!

Many of those on the right are quite fond of criticizing “unelected federal judges” who issue rulings that go against their world view.

What, then, is their alternative? Do they want to elect those who sit on the federal bench? Do they wish to do away with the federal judiciary?

I mention this because the U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld a University of Michigan policy that disallows affirmative action practices when considering who the school should admit. Did those on the left issue similar cries against those “unelected judges”? I didn’t hear any.

And yet, when judges keep striking down states’ bans on same-sex marriage, the cries go out from those who think the federal judiciary is overreaching when it declares states cannot write laws that violate U.S. constitutional provisions, such as the one that provides for “equal protection” under the law, regardless of sexual orientation.

Perhaps my favorite criticism of the high court came when it ruled 5-4 to uphold the Affordable Care Act. The ruling was narrowly defined and it was decided by a single vote, when Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the majority to keep the ACA intact. The criticism — from the right, of course — went something like this: The law should be tossed out because a narrow majority on the Supreme Court voted to keep it, and that the one-vote majority really didn’t mean the law is constitutional.

The founders had it exactly right when they empowered the president with the authority to appoint judges to the bench for life. They sought to de-politicize the federal bench by disallowing the election of federal judges.

States, of course, retain the right to elect judges. Texas even elects judges on partisan ballots, meaning that judicial candidates of one party has a built-in advantage over candidates of the other party. In Texas, that means if you’re a Republican, you’re in; it used to be the other way around, when Democrats were dominant.

Either way, good judges from the “out” party are kicked out simply because they are of the wrong political persuasion.

The federal judiciary, from the Supreme Court on down, functions precisely as the framers intended for it.

Money to speak even more loudly

You’ve heard the saying that “Money talks and bull—- walks.”

Hang on to your wallet and dial in your BS detector. Money is about to have a lot more say in who we elect to public office, thanks to the United States Supreme Court.


The court ruled 5-4 along ideological lines on a case that removes caps on all political donations. The five-member conservative wing of the court won the argument — of course.

The case involves McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, and it follows through on the landmark Citizens United case of 2010 that removed most limits on campaign donations by corporations. This latest ruling removes the rest of the restrictions involving caps on direct donations to candidates and political parties.

Is it a First Amendment issue, as Chief Justice John Roberts noted in his majority opinion? Sure … if you buy the argument that a billionaire’s monstrous bankroll has no more influence on political candidates than a middle-class blue-collar employee writing a $20 check to the candidate of his or her choice.

Billionaires, be they on the left or the right, have infinitely more influence on these matters than John Q. Citizen.

Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent took note of the impact of today’s decision. “If the court in Citizens United opened a door,” he said, “today’s decision may well open a floodgate.”

And money is going to pour through that floodgate.

I make no apologies in my defense of the First Amendment’s clause dealing with political expression. Still, there’s something quite unseemly about the burgeoning influence of money on political campaigns. Billionaire George Soros’s efforts to elect Democrats is troublesome only in that his voice can be heard so much more clearly than someone with a lot less money. The same can be said for the Koch Brothers, who are involved up to their armpits in electing Republican office seekers.

The greater the influence of money in these campaigns, the lesser the influence you and I are going to have in getting these candidates to listen to our concerns.

This ruling marks a bad moment in American political history.

Yes, Mr. Justice, racism is a serious problem

Someone, somewhere, somehow must tell Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to stop looking at the world through his own narrow prism.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow’s essay takes the justice to task over some remarks he made about what he described as an undeserved fixation about race in America.


Thomas, of course, is the second African-American picked to serve on the nation’s highest court. President George H.W. Bush appointed him in 1991 after the first black justice, Thurgood Marshall, retired from the bench. President Bush called Thomas “the most qualified man” in the country to take the seat, which has turned out to be more than a bit of an overstatement.

Thomas’s road to the court was strewn with obstacles. He faced charges of sexual harassment that surfaced many years after the alleged incidents occurred — and during his confirmation hearings before the Senate.

Do you remember his reference to the “high-tech lynching” he said was occurring in an effort to scuttle his nomination?

He now has said that growing up in Savannah, Ga., he didn’t feel racism and asserts, astoundingly, that it somehow wasn’t a problem in the South.

Umm, yes it was, sir.

Here is what he told a university audience on Tuesday:

“My sadness is that we are probably today more race- and difference-conscious than I was in the 1960s when I went to school. To my knowledge, I was the first black kid in Savannah, Ga., to go to a white school. Rarely did the issue of race come up.

“Now, name a day it doesn’t come up. Differences in race, differences in sex, somebody doesn’t look at you right, somebody says something. Everybody is sensitive. If I had been as sensitive as that in the 1960s, I’d still be in Savannah. Every person in this room has endured a slight. Every person. Somebody has said something that has hurt their feelings or did something to them — left them out.”

Then he said this: “The worst I have been treated was by northern liberal elites. The absolute worst I have ever been treated.”

That all might have been true in young Clarence’s case. Who am I to dispute someone else’s personal recollection?

That doesn’t translate to others’ experiences. Many millions of African-Americans have endured so much hatred and bigotry on the basis of their race that it defies my imagination to believe that one prominent black American could be so dismissive of the pain brought to so many others.

As Blow asks in his column, Thomas either suffers from serious amnesia or is “contemporaneously oblivious.”

The one justice who never speaks during oral arguments before the Supreme Court has spoken out now. He’s said a mouthful.


‘Court-packing scheme’ is specious argument

The National Review Online is supposed to be a respected publication.

The editorial attached to this post, however, suggests that the folks who run the publication fail to understand a key component of the U.S. Constitution. It’s the part that gives the president of the United States the authority to make critical executive and judicial branch appointments.


The NRO is upset with Senate Democrats’ decision to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” as it relates to the filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took the highly risky step as a way to allow President Obama to have his appointments cleared from a Senate that had obstructed them through the use of the filibuster. It once took 60 votes out of 100 to break a filibuster. It now takes just 51 votes. The rule change involves all appointments except those involving the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Senate has nuked itself.

The NRO, though, says that the filibuster is secondary to what it says is the real reason for the action. “The filibuster is a minor issue; the major issue is that President Obama is engaged in a court-packing scheme to protect his dubious agenda, and Harry Reid’s Senate is conspiring with him to do so,” the NRO writes.

A number of judicial appointments have been blocked by Senate Republicans that have nothing to do with the qualifications of the men and women selected. Obama seeks to fill them because, well, he is the president and the Constitution gives the person in that office the authority to act. Yes, the Constitution also gives the Senate the right to “advise and consent” to the nominations. That role, though, should be on the basis of whether someone is qualified for the job.

I’ve long believed strongly in presidential prerogative. I’ve also believed that presidents who win elections have earned the right to pick whomever they wish to key positions. This might surprise some readers of this blog, but I supported the nomination to the Supreme Court in 1991 of one Clarence Thomas, despite the uproar that arose from his selection when a woman accused him of sexual harassment.

The complaint was never proved. Thomas was qualified to serve on the highest court. Was he the kind of judge I would have picked? No. That job, though, fell to the man who was elected president in 1988, George H.W. Bush. Therefore, the president had earned the right to seat someone of his choosing on the court.

Barack Obama has precisely the same right as any of the men who’ve served before him. The Senate shouldn’t serve as a place where these nominations are stopped because of some trumped-up scheme manufactured by his political opponents.

Court-packing? Give me a break. President Obama’s job involves making appointments. Let him do that job and let the people he selects be examined on the basis of their qualifications.

Justice Scalia knows ‘nasty’

When Antonin Scalia says the tone in Washington has gotten “nasty,” you know it’s bad.

As in really, really bad.


The U.S. Supreme Court justice, who’s been on the high court bench since 1986, has carved out a reputation for being one of the court’s surliest members. Decorum during oral arguments at times goes out the window when Justice Scalia gets going. As for the opinions he writes — whether for the majority or in dissent — Scalia unsheathes the poison pen on occasion.

“It’s a nasty time,” Scalia told The Hill, a newspaper covering Capitol Hill. “It’s a nasty time. When I was first in Washington, and even in my early years on this Court, I used to go to a lot of dinner parties at which there were people from both sides. Democrats, Republicans.”

Yes, it’s gotten nasty. Democrats are saying it, as are Republicans. They say they liked it better when everyone got along once they were off the clock. The old-timers in Washington remember a more collegial time.

It’s just interesting to me to hear Justice Scalia now call attention to the poisonous climate in Washington.

He spoke as the court begins its new term. I’ll be anxious to see what this new term brings from the outspoken and occasionally cantankerous justice. Maybe he’ll tone it down a bit himself.

Leave health care act alone, poll says

Would it surprise you to learn that a new poll says that Americans do not want Congress to defund the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare”?

It surprised me.


CNBC’s latest survey suggests, therefore, that congressional Republicans are playing with fire in their attempt to gut a law that Congress approved, President Obama signed and the Supreme Court affirmed.

They contend the law is “failed.” How they know that is beyond me, given that it hasn’t even been implemented yet. Those all-knowing GOP lawmakers, though, are prescient enough to predict what they do not yet know.

The stakes in this game are getting a bit too rich for my stomach. The House has approved a spending measure that takes money away from Obamacare. The president will have none of it. Neither will the Democrats who run the Senate. Failure to approve the spending measure, thus, means the government could shut down.

All this is a precursor to an even bigger battle over whether to boost the nation’s debt ceiling. The tea party goofballs within the GOP don’t want to do that. Never mind that their patron saint, President Reagan, raised the debt ceiling 18 times during his two terms in office (1981-89).

Yep, Republicans are playing with fire, which is going to burn them. I don’t care about that. I do care about suffering the damage myself, especially if my retirement income starts flying out the window.

Watch out, Stockman enters fray

Republican Steve Stockman, who in my mind is vying for the title of Texas’s looniest member of Congress, says he has a plan to defund Obamacare without shutting down the government.


Stockman hails from the Houston suburb of Friendswood. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012 after a 16-year hiatus from Congress; he had served a single term from 1995 to 1997 before being drummed out because he was, um, a bit on the flaky side.

His flakiness hasn’t really subsided in the interim. He’s back with a vengeance, threatening for instance to seek to impeach President Obama for enacting executive orders to get some things done in Washington — given that the GOP-led House isn’t doing anything constructive.

Stockman now says has a plan to stop the Affordable Care Act.

Stockman’s resolution would suspend any federal funds that would support any provision of Obamacare. The bill attacks the health care program, stating that a majority of lawmakers believe it violates the Constitution, according to the Houston Chronicle. I believe the gentleman from the Gulf Coast misstates the level of belief in the law’s constitutionality. It might be that most Republicans — who comprise a majority of the House — believe the law to be illegal. It’s a stretch, though, to suggest that most of the entire House — which still has a significant number of Democrats — has lined up in that camp.

And if memory serves, the Supreme Court ruled that the law is constitutional. Aren’t the justices — most of whom were appointed by conservative Republican presidents — supposed to settle these things?

Cruz taunts fellow GOP senators

The junior Republican senator from Texas is proving a point I made the other day about the intraparty battle brewing over whether the shut the government down by cutting off money for the Affordable Care Act.

Ted Cruz asks, “What’s the alternative”?” to shutting ‘er down.


The Lone Star State firebrand – who’s been on the job less than eight months – wasn’t around to witness what happened when the Republicans got their heads handed to them over this very thing. The alternative, Sen. Cruz, is to work with Democrats and “establishment Republicans” to keep the government functioning.

Cruz also wasn’t in the Senate when that body – along with the House of Representatives – approved Obamacare. The Supreme Court then handed the Obama administration a clear victory when it ruled – albeit narrowly – that the law is in fact constitutional.

Thus, we have a standing law.

Congressional Republicans, though, keep trying to overturn what’s been done legally.

And this fight between the two wings of the GOP – the tea party wing and the establishment wing – is proving to be worth the price of entertainment all by itself.

Keep “taunting” those older, more experienced hands, Sen. Cruz.