Tag Archives: Elena Kagan

Conservatives show quick trigger fingers

You have to hand it to conservative political leaders, who demonstrate time and again how quick they are to seize an initiative and outflank their liberal foes.

Take the call by religious leaders for liberal U.S. Supreme Court justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to recuse themselves from an upcoming hearing on same-sex marriage.


They contend that Kagan and Ginsburg have put their personal views on the subject above the U.S. Constitution and thus have surrendered their moral authority to decide on this issue.

Is there a more impractical demand than this?

It wouldn’t fly any more than some liberal political interest — say, the American Civil Liberties Union — demanding that conservative justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas recuse themselves because of their often-stated bias against same-sex marriage.

The court is going to hear a case, Obergefell v. Hodges, involving same-sex marriage bans in four states — Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan and Kentucky. The justices might rule that states cannot supersede the U.S. Constitution that guarantees citizens the right to equal protection under the law; or, they might rule that states have that authority.

It should be decided, quite naturally, by the full court comprising liberals, conservatives and swing justices, such as Anthony Kennedy and, possibly, Chief Justice John Roberts.

Still, the hair-trigger response by faith leaders demanding the recusal by liberal justices offers a lesson in how to make a quick-strike political demand.

They’ve honed the strategy almost to an art form.


Judicial independence bites Obama

Barack Obama has just gotten a taste of what many of his presidential predecessors have had to swallow as it regards federal judicial appointments.

Their court appointments didn’t vote nearly the way their benefactor — the president — wanted them to vote.

That, I submit, speaks quite eloquently to the need to keep the federal judiciary independent.


In two 9-0 rulings in recent days, the court struck down a Massachusetts law that regulated anti-abortion protesters and then it reeled in presidential appointment powers relating to recess appointments made when the Senate is not in session.

That means both of President Obama’s high court picks — Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — voted against the wishes of the man who nominated them to their dream job in the first place.

We hear yammering — mostly from the right wing of the political spectrum — that “unelected judges” wield too much power. This carping comes usually when the court rules against a cause or principle near and dear to conservatives’ hearts.

Indeed, the court has comprised many Republican appointees who’ve gone against the wishes of their presidential benefactors: Dwight Eisenhower picked Earl Warren to be chief justice and all Warren did was launch the Supreme Court on a whole range of landmark liberal court rulings, starting with the 1954 school desegregation ruling known as Brown v. the Board of Education.

Harry Blackmum (picked by Richard Nixon) wrote the Roe v. Wade abortion decision; John Paul Stevens (Gerald Ford) became a staunch liberal court member; Byron White (John Kennedy) voted “no” on Roe v. Wade; John Roberts (George W. Bush) voted with the majority to uphold the Affordable Care Act.

Now two of the court’s liberal justices — Kagan and Sotomayor — have joined their fellow liberals and conservatives on the court to stick it in President Obama’s eye on a couple of key issues.

So, let’s stop the griping about the federal court system. The founders set up an independent branch of government for a reason, which was to prevent its politicization when trying to interpret the U.S. Constitution.

Conflict of interest on high court?

Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is a longtime political activist.

The latest news of her political activism makes me wonder: Does this married couple ever talk about their day when they’re home at night? Ever?


Conflicts of interest are nothing new in Washington, or in Austin, or even in Amarillo for that matter. It is troubling in the extreme, though, when a sitting justice is married to someone with such a heavy-hitting role in political causes that might become the subject of, say, appeals before that very court.

Mrs. Thomas’s role in these endeavors is troubling to be sure.

The government watchdog group Common Cause questioned whether Justice Thomas should have taken part in the landmark Citizens United case that enabled corporations to make unlimited campaign donations because, according to Mother Jones magazine, the justice well could have taken part in Citizens United strategy sessions before it made its case before the court.

Ginni Thomas has been involved with groups opposing the Affordable Care Act. Her husband voted with the minority that sought to repeal a key portion of the law.

It’s fine for the spouse of a high-ranking public official to be involved politically. It’s quite a different matter, though, when a perception emerges that the spouse’s involvement might affect the public official’s performance of his or her duty.

Justice Elena Kagan once was solicitor general of the United States, meaning she argued the government’s position before the court. One of the cases she argued had to do with Arizona’s strict immigration law. How did she vote when the case came before the court? She didn’t. Justice Kagan recused herself.

Justice Thomas should do the same whenever cases connected to political causes involving his wife come before the court.