Friday, June 27, 2008

Supreme Court silliness

Gasp - I think I actually agree with the conservatives when it comes to their angry rants against the Supreme Court!

The Supreme Court is the highest court in America - and it's appointed justices decide the final interpretation of all sorts of important issues.

Most recently, they've made some good decisions, like securing Constitutional Rights for the remaining inmates on Guantanamo Bay and banning states from executing prisoners for non-capital crimes.

Although (to paraphrase James Bond) 'guns upset me', I also supported their decision to uphold the 2nd Amendment and lift the ban on handguns in Washington DC.

But despite making mostly the right decisions (upholding the death penalty was a mistake. Surely capital punishment is the very embodiment of 'cruel and unusual punishment) there is one worrying thing about all of the Supreme Court's decisions.

They tend to rule 5-4.

As in, five of the judges rule one way - the other four rule against the majority.

Generally, this is done on party lines - so for the 2nd Amendment issue, the four liberal justices (John Paul Stevens, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter) voted against lifting the handgun ban, while the four conservative justices, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Saluel Alito voted for it.

These two 'parties' voted on strict ideological grounds on all of the issues - so it was left to Justice Anthony Kennedy to decide the issue.

This is annoying for all sorts of reasons - first and foremost, because it shows just how vulnerable the Supreme Court system is to abuse.

As far as I'm concerned, cases like the one concerning the Guantanamo Bay inmates and the 2nd Amendment should have been clear-cut. The law is transparent and even if the Justices didn't politically agree with it, they should have voted for what the law said.

Instead, both conservative and liberal justices attempt to legislate from the bench - and overturn clear cut laws with established constitutional precedent.

At the moment, because Anthony Kennedy seems to be fairly clear headed, this is mostly working out for the better. But all it would take is another conservative Justice to tip the balance and see America's liberties poured down the drain.

Likewise, as far as Republican voters are concerned, it would be a nightmare scenario if Obama was elected president and slid another liberal Justice into the Supreme Court - because then the 4/4 split would be tipped towards the liberal's favour.

Even though I'm fairly liberal in my outlook, I don't necessarily think that would be any better for America than a conservative Supreme Court. Whether dominated by the left or the right, it's still fundamentally wrong that they try to shape the application of the law to suit their political leanings.

The Supreme Court's job is to maintain the constitution and strike down laws which violate it. They should be about LAW and JUSTICE and remain totally independent from politics.

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