The Disconnected Supreme Court by Dr. Ed Janosik

There are reasons why the Justices of the Supreme Court can become disconnected to the realities of American life. First is the privileged position given them by the Constitution with their life terms and protection against a reduction in salary.

Doing their work in an isolated atmosphere, protected from the give and take of American society, they are impervious to the changes that occur in American life over a period of time. Two weeks ago tomorrow (June 13) the Supreme Court issued a new rule regarding demonstrations on the area in front of the Supreme Court building, technically called the Supreme Court Plaza. This means that the Supreme Court is never aware of any public displeasure to their decisions. The marshals of the Supreme Court justify the Court’s action by saying that access to the Supreme Court building by the public should not be impeded.

There are reasons why the Justices of the Supreme Court can become disconnected to the realities of American life. First is the privileged position given them by the Constitution with their life terms and protection against a reduction in salary.

Doing their work in an isolated atmosphere, protected from the give and take of American society, they are impervious to the changes that occur in American life over a period of time. Two weeks ago tomorrow (June 13) the Supreme Court issued a new rule regarding demonstrations on the area in front of the Supreme Court building, technically called the Supreme Court Plaza. This means that the Supreme Court is never aware of any public displeasure to their decisions. The marshals of the Supreme Court justify the Court’s action by saying that access to the Supreme Court building by the public should not be impeded.

This argument constitutes a double hypocrisy by the Supreme Court. After their 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller which opened the gates for unregulated gun ownership in the United States, they locked the front doors of the Supreme Court to the public, which can now only gain entry to the building through a side entrance where tight security can be maintained. The first hypocrisy was protecting themselves from gun violence that they encouraged by their decision in the Heller case. The second hypocrisy was justifying their order against protests on the Supreme Court Plaza by saying there should be no impediment to tourists visiting the Court, when they had already locked the front door of the Court to the public.

Another source of insulation from the public is that the democratic right of “speaking truth to power” does not apply to the Court. The Justices cannot be personally confronted by the press or any American citizen. They live in splendid isolation, totally removed from American society, except when individual Justices engage in or are in close contact with political activists. Justice Antonin Scalia has frequently been entertained by the Koch brothers and Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife has been a prominent Tea Mob activist. They both continue to sit on cases with politically overtones because Supreme Court Justices themselves decide whether their activities should require them to recuse themselves in certain cases.

So it is that five members of the Supreme Court can agree with Southern bigots that the voting protections of minorities guaranteed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are no longer required because they think the situation in 2013 is no longer the same as it was in 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was passed. There is evidence in the press every day that this is not the case. The day after the Supreme Court decision the attorneys general of three or four Red States have put into force laws that were being held up for review by orders from the Justice Department under Title V of the Civil Rights Act. The minute that Title V was deemed unconstitutional, all these laws were put into effect.

Conservatives in the United States rage against “judicial activism” but this Supreme Court, since Justices Roberts and Alito were added, has declared settled law unconstitutional in more instances than any Court in recent American history. It is discouraging to see the legal system that developed in the 70 years after the New Deal be torn apart by a Court that has loosened a torrent of corporate money into the American political system and that has now set the stage for the second phase of Jim Crow law in the United States.

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Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition
Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition (ProVote) is a statewide coalition of labor unions and community groups that work to promote progressive policies through electoral engagement. We believe grassroots groups can be more effective by working together.