Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Chief Justice Whines

Today, it was reported that John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, complained about the President’s remarks at the State of the Union address regarding a recent court decision allowing corporations to provide unlimited financial contributions to political campaigns. Justice Roberts called the remarks “political”.

Never mind that the ruling itself shows how activist the Roberts Court has become. Never mind that Roberts’ conservative comrade Justice Alito inappropriately mouthed “not true” at the President. What the Chief Justice needs to understand is a basic tenet of the Constitution: The Presidency is a political position. That’s why we elect the president every four years. This is unlike the Supreme Court, where justices serve in their position for life. So the Chief Justice was right – the comments were political, but he has no basis to complain about them.

While the process for confirming Supreme Court nominees has been a political issue for both sides (witness the failed confirmations of Robert Bork as an Associate Justice and that of Abe Fortas as Chief Justice), once confirmed, the justices should steer away from political issues.

And in case you think the President’s comments were inappropriate (I don’t), consider the fact that conservative Republicans have led the charge not only to reverse elections, but also to recall justices because of decisions that didn’t go their way. This manifested itself in the 50’s with the Republican effort in Congress to impeach Republican Chief Justice Earl Warren as well as the liberal justice William O. Douglas. On the other side, no serious attempts to impeach Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas have been introduced in Congress despite their blight on our system of Justice for All that will be perpetuated for many years to come.

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