The Judiciary

Order in the court. Here comes the judge

After an unprecedented attack by President Obama on the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal judge asked the Justice Department to give a written explanation of its opinion of what the president was conveying to the justices as they decide the fate of ObamaCare. It appears that the judicial system is defending itself as a co-equal branch of the United States government.

This is absolutely appropriate since the president seems to feel that unelected judges have no right to interfere with the legislative and executive process. At least when they are his executive and legislative processes. This is but one of the many radical changes that the president wants to bring about to our nation. He basically wants the judicial system to be a rubber stamp for his ideological agenda. It will certainly be educational as well as fascinating to see who wins this mammoth struggle, and the implications will be significant for the future identity of our nation.


From Mitt Romney to Ron Paul: The vast wasteland of American conservatism

In my most recent column, “Supreme Court scandals,” I suggested that America endures a partisan Republican and ideologically extreme Supreme Court majority that has run amok, embodies the hypocrisy of a delegitimized conservative movement and has become an enabling force for the most corrupted of the 1 percent. From the shamelessly unprincipled Mitt Romney to the shameful and unprincipled pandering to Romney by Ron Paul, who like Romney is now a man without a conscience, we are witnessing the end of conservatism as a credible intellectual force in American public life.


Resist Obama/Reid's nomination power play

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) nomination power play under the guise of a created emergency on the federal bench is both absurd and dangerous.
The truth is that Reid is setting up a constitutional crisis over the Easter congressional district work period allowing President Obama to “recess”-appoint a bevy of judges and others without the advice and consent of the Senate.
The Constitution does not require that the Senate approve the president’s choices for the judiciary, and in fact, the Senate is supposed to be anything but a rubber stamp.  These permanent appointments to the federal bench are supposed to be thoroughly vetted, and the Senate has a responsibility to only approve those who meet the highest standards.


More on Supreme Court ethics

Last week I wrote about the ironic comments of Chief Justice John Roberts that Supreme Court justices be left to decide whether they have a conflict of interest to disqualify their sitting in judgment in a particular case.

The New York Times joined the current debate over Supreme Court recusal practices, editorializing that the court should subject itself to the same ethical rules already applicable to all other federal judges and for the justices to increase the transparency of their recusal decisions. The justices’ personal vigilance and judgment may well be correct; but if it is so, why not let the public see it?


Obama’s extraconstitutional NLRB appointments

Washington, D.C., political insiders, wonks and talk radio are all atwitter about the decision by President Obama to blow up the Senate advise-and-consent process by making appointments of three individuals to the National Labor Relations Board and one to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The three NLRB appointees will allow the board to continue on with a quorum making broad sweeping regulatory rulings that threaten to transform employment law by executive fiat during this last year of the Obama administration.


Judging judges’ ethics

A journalist I know questioned a two-bit Maryland legislator who voted for a law affecting property he had a financial interest in. “How about your conflict of interest?” he asked. “I got no conflict with that!” the lawmaker responded.

Alas, the American public has come to expect that kind of ethical blind spot in its legislators. But when the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court tells Congress he doesn’t get why folks question why the standard recusal laws that apply to all federal judges don’t apply to Supreme Court justices, I say bring in the stand-up comics.

In the chief justice’s annual report on the State of the Judiciary, John Roberts reported he had “complete confidence in the capability of my colleagues to determine when recusal is warranted.” They are, he reminded, “jurists of exceptional integrity.” One of these jurists, Justice Clarence Thomas, failed to recuse himself from cases before the Supreme Court even though his wife worked for organizations interested in the matters at hand. When it was pointed out to him, Thomas changed his answer to his financial disclosure forms and disclosed that fact retroactively. He blamed the inadvertent error on his not understanding the nature of questions on that form, though he’d filled it out for years in the past.


Ethics at the Supreme Court

It is interesting to note that the Republican candidates for president are bashing the federal courts for what they call improper judicial activism. They do not cite Bush v. Gore as the classic example of what we learned in first-year constitutional law in law school, about courts not entering the "sticky thicket" of politics.
In fact, as The Alliance for Justice is pointing out, Justices Scalia, Alito and especially Thomas are guilty of questionable ethics in their dealings with sponsors and organizations that have matters before the court. (See here.)


The Supreme Court’s processed mind

That most Supreme Court members went to one of the same Northeast Ivy League law schools makes a mockery of Jefferson’s America; we have become a nation of world tribes rather than regions. From the Jeffersonian perspective schools like U. Minnesota, Vanderbilt, U. Texas at Austin, U. Virginia, U. Michigan, all in the top 20 should be included. And Brigham Young, Wake Forest and UNC not far behind. The current composition of the court illustrates an America afraid of itself and constantly defaulting to the absurd illusion of 19th-century New England royal families. This is not authentic self-government. It is imitation of perceived gentry.


GOP war against women

Monday's Supreme Court decision is another example of the Republican war against matters that benefit women, this time by the ideological rightist majority on the court. Why do so many conservative Republican women support positions so hostile to the economic interests of American women? And what have women done to Republicans that the GOP cannot bring itself to support full pay equity for women?

I have raised this issue many times before, and will again. Every American should have full pay equity, including women. No American should face discrimination regarding pay, or any other issue, including women.


SCOTUS decision: Small step for Wal-Mart, giant leap for gender equality

The SCOTUS decision Monday morning to stop the lawsuit against Wal-Mart from proceeding as a class action was a tremendous victory for our economy and for women. The justices agreed unanimously that the case cannot advance in its current form, which could have included up to 1.6 million women.

Discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity and religion is already illegal, and individual employees with legitimate complaints should have the opportunity to bring a case to court. But at a time when our economy is still facing tremendous volatility and unemployment is over 9 percent, companies cannot afford to spend their time fighting frivolous lawsuits like this one.