Tag Archives: judicial branch

Founders’ ideal is trashed

Our nation’s founders had this glorious idea when they created an independent state in the New World that there ought to be three co-equal branches of government, with one of those branches — the judiciary — set aside to be free of political pressure.

The other two — the executive and legislative branches — would be wholly political, they reckoned.

It is a sad thing to acknowledge that the federal judiciary has become a political tool of the forces that seek to determine who sits in judgment on matters brought before the courts.

We are witnessing play out yet again with President Biden’s decision to nominate Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to a spot on the nation’s Supreme Court. She is eminently qualified to serve on the court. Her stellar legal background and her educational chops ought to be sufficient to guarantee that the Senate would confirm her.

That isn’t the case. She was pilloried and pounded during her 19 hours of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senators — those of the Republican ilk — chose to demonize her over her duties as a federal public defender. They criticized her sentencing practices, of course taking most of it out of context.

You can spare me the “what about-ism” involving Republican-appointed judicial nominees getting roughed up during their Senate confirmation hearings. I am well aware of what happened in the past. I am not going to give anyone a pass based on recent political history for the treatment that was leveled at Judge Jackson.

My concern is that the founders’ notion of lifting the federal judiciary out of the political sewer has been flushed away. They intended the federal bench to be free of politics by establishing lifetime appointments to the federal bench. Gosh, it seems to me at this moment that the lifetime appointment provision only has worsened the politicization.

I am left merely to lament the grievous wound that has been inflicted on the founders’ ideal when they established this great nation. I’ll just hope for all it’s worth that the wound isn’t mortal.


Mr. Sam knew his place

BONHAM, Texas — The plaque pictured here offers an important civics lesson. It tells of the late Sam Rayburn’s role as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and also as a rank-and-file member of the legislative branch of the federal government.

The great Mr. Sam said he didn’t work “under” eight presidents, but that he worked “with” them. Listen up! Pay attention!

Too many presidents over many decades have fancied themselves as bigger than their office, occupying an office bigger and more powerful and meaningful than the other two co-equal branches of government.

Yes, Donald Trump, I refer to you as well.

Rayburn served in the House with eight presidents, the first of whom was Woodrow Wilson; the last of them was John F. Kennedy. Rayburn died in November 1961.

He was the Man of the House, even when he wasn’t pounding the gavel as its speaker.

I came back to the Rayburn Library and Museum today to show my visiting brother-in-law — who is quite a student of history — this place my wife (his sister) and I visited for the first time just a few weeks ago.

I didn’t see the plaque on our first visit. I feel compelled to offer these few words as a tribute to the understanding that Speaker Rayburn had about Congress and its role as a partner in the making of laws that govern all Americans. He was a student of government and knew he was duty bound to work within the system, reaching across the partisan divide, to find common ground in search of the common good.

There is a huge lesson that needs to be learned in the present day. Donald Trump, then the Republican nominee for president, declared in the summer of 2016 that “I, alone” can repair the things that he said were ailing the country. Uh, Mr. President, good government is most definitely a team sport, requiring all branches of government — even the judiciary — to play a role in the crafting and interpretation of law.

Sam Rayburn knew what has been lost on occasion in the present day. Legislators dig in against the president, who digs in against the men and women who serve in Congress. Nothing gets done. They all seek to declare political victory, when in reality they all fail.

Given that we have only one president at a time, the onus for failure — at least in my mind — falls on the doofus in the White House at the moment.

I cannot stop thinking at this moment how the great Sam Rayburn would react to the bullying and showboating he would witness from down the street at the White House.

My guess? He wouldn’t stand for it.

SCOTUS chief to POTUS: No such thing as partisan judges

Listen up, Mr. President. Sit up straight and pay attention. The chief justice of the United States of America is speaking words of wisdom.

Chief Justice John Roberts has informed you, Donald Trump, that the country doesn’t have “Obama judges, or Bush judges or Clinton judges.” The federal judiciary, he reminded all of us in a statement issued today, is an independent branch of the government. The men and women who adjudicate cases must be free of partisan consideration, such as the individual who nominated them to whatever bench where they sit.

It’s a rare event to have the chief justice admonish a politician, Mr. President. Congratulations, you’ve stirred the pot!

The chief is admonishing you for those intemperate remarks you keep making about judges. You had the gall to refer to a U.S.-born federal jurist as a “Mexican” only because he is of Mexican heritage; the judge was ruling against your anti-immigration efforts. You referred to another judge based in Hawaii as a “so-called judge” because he knocked down your Muslim travel ban. Another judge who ruled against your recent asylum ban became an “Obama judge.”

Thus, the chief justice got riled enough to speak out against your careless references to the men and women who sit on our federal bench.

Perhaps he’s ticked that you criticized him directly for his vote in 2012 to preserve the Affordable Care Act. That makes it even worse, Mr. President.

You, Mr. President, keep demonstrating an absolute and unwavering ignorance of the roles that the co-equal branches of government play. You don’t understand the limits of your own executive power, or the limitations placed on the legislative and judicial branches of government. Your habitual loud mouth and careless rhetoric underscore your own ignorance of the governmental framework you took an oath to “preserve, protect and defend.”

I am glad to know that Chief Justice Roberts has called you out, although his language — quite understandably — was measured and scholarly.

I know you won’t learn from this. I just had to weigh in anyway.

Mr. President, you simply scare the spit out of me.


President Barack Obama has chided the Supreme Court over its decision to hear a case involving the Affordable Care Act.

Some critics, of course, suggest the criticism is out of bounds, that the president is trying to “bully” the nine justices who could strike down a key provision in the ACA. Bully those men and women? I don’t think so.


Obama says the court was wrong to take up a case in the first place. The case, to be ruled on perhaps in just a matter of days, involves the legality of the federal subsidies used to help pay for Americans’ health care. An estimated 6.4 million Americans’ health insurance policies are at risk if the court strikes down the subsidy.

Now the president has declared the ACA to be a “reality,” it is law and it is part of the American fabric of providing health insurance to those who need it.

Is he right to challenge the court? Of course he is.

Just as critics chide the president for ignoring the separation of powers contained in the Constitution, they ignore the obvious notion that the separation argument goes the other direction. By that I mean that the judiciary, as a co-equal branch of government, isn’t immune from criticism from another branch of government. Indeed, the legislative branch — Congress — hardly is shy about criticizing the executive and the judiciary when either of those branches of government steer in what lawmakers suggest is the “wrong direction.”

Where the president misfired, in my view, in his criticism of the Supreme Court was when he did so during his 2010 State of the Union speech. With several court members sitting in front of him, surrounded by other administration and military officials, not to mention a packed chamber full of lawmakers, the president said the court was wrong in its Citizens United ruling that took the shackles off of campaign contributors. Whatever criticism the court deserved, that was neither the time or the place to deliver it.

So, the fight goes on between Barack Obama the nine men and women who hold the fate of his signature domestic policy achievement in their hands.