Where I’m at: Chicago (t-minus 51 days)
What I’m doing: figuring out where to live in D.C.
Why I’m posting: venting about judicial hypocrisy
So due to a variety of factors – namely my mom’s and bro’s birthdays, studying, and oh, not having a blog – I didn’t write anything about the “Citizens United v. FEC” case that came down from SCOTUS (the Supreme Court of the United States) last week. For those that don’t normally care about court decisions, you probably should care about this one because it very may well be one of those cases that we all debate for years down the road (think Roe v. Wade). That serious, DeMark? Well, maybe. For those that want the short version, SCOTUS’s decision removes most restrictions from corporations making political campaign donations (primarily by striking down McCain-Feingold’s law). In other words, if Pfizer decides it wants Candidate A, it doesn’t matter how much you and your friends support Candidate B because his bankroll will look like a pittance.
Okay, that’s the Justice Stevens-in-dissent-take (god I love that little bow-tied man). But the reason everyone should be up in arms about this decision is the way it happened. Now, I’m all for freedom of speech. In fact, I believe (like Justice Black did) in absolute freedom of speech…of people. But opening the way for corporations to have the same standards of speech diminishes all our speech. It is not that I can’t see where the conservative wing of SCOTUS chose to extend that right through its 5-4 decision, but that they chose to do it when they didn’t have to. Basically, “Citizens United” should have been a minor, targeted decision, but Justices Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy (who wrote the opinion) chose to overturn 2 precedents, a popularly-elected Congress’s statutory action, and it spit in the face of all those conservatives that rant against judicial activism. I’m not disappointed in Kennedy because he doesn’t hold precedent in the same regard. Nor am I disappointed in Thomas (because he’s already such a waste of space) or Alito (because I have so little respect for him already and he’s already shown a propensity for this type of thing, notably trying to overturn Roe v. Wade through Casey v. Planned Parenthood when he was on the Ct. of Appeals). I’m disappointed in Roberts and Scalia. Even though I don’t agree with them, I respect their measured approaches to jurisprudence and their regards for stare decisis (basically, precedent). That they would both go beyond the narrowly-tailored decision that would have been required to broadly make judicial law is disappointing.
I’d just like to see where the John Birch Society is now. The JBS was infamous for plotting to kill Chief Justice Earl Warren and other Justices for their “judicial activism” mid-century in such efforts to recognize rights of privacy and strike down segregation. It was a fringe group until George H.W. Bush courted their membership to reform the GOP in Texas and flip the formerly blue state to the red state bastion it is today. Let’s see if those wackos will go after one (or two) of their own. By using their speech, of course. It’s free after all.
Who said it: Chief Justice John Roberts during his confirmation hearings
Why it’s relevant: See above, re: “judicial activism”
The quote: “Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules; they apply them.”