Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Quick Bits: More Roberts and More

The aforementioned (previous post) article by Dahlia Lithwick of Slate Magazine, Humble Fie outlines how Judge Roberts, essentially, "sees almost no role for courts as remedial institutions. Judges should limit themselves to interpreting the law, parsing statutes, and nothing more. Anything else, he feels, is overreaching." This may sound staid and solid, but think about how often the courts ARE used remedially: to correct non-enforcement of environmental regulations, to promote and enforce civil rights (desegregation, Roe v. Wade, job discrimination, housing discrimination), to (hopefully) enforce limits on corporations who are legally people but seem to be held to lower standards (like the freedom of speech to lie), to enforce fair process for those illegally detained (i.e. the still largely-uncharged Guantanamo Bay prisoners, who despite supposedly being "bad people" contains many civilians and a number of children, none of whom have had evidence presented to back up their presumed badness) -- no roll for the courts? Some argue that the actions of the Supreme Court in Brown v. Topeka may have had a laudable result, but perhaps irresponsibly freed Congress from addressing race (presumably for a better result). This Congressional Supremacy of our elected officials is one of the more bizarre ideas that have come up in conservative discourse, in my opinion. This is because the judges are unelected and making decisions that effect us. But they're meant to be unelected, such that they are not affected by public swings of opinion but rather serve as an independent guarantor of our rights. And they can be impeached, by our elected officials, meaning if we have so much control over them that apparently they are a more perfect embodiment of our democratic desires than judges, if and when we want judges our our elected officials should get them out. A conservative (I'm guessing) argues here about too-expansive judicial powers, but concludes feebly that Congress simply have "no understanding of the proper use of impeachment." But I thought Congress was so responsive to citizen demands! The conservative also makes a silly argument about Congress being better than the judiciary on race relations, giving very real examples of Supreme Court fuck-ups -- but they were fuck-ups of course that I think on the whole represented the general feeling of the people in the US to some extent (i.e. the various rulings sustaining slavery by the court) and s/he ignores completely Congress' long-time fucking about with rights (the long, long process to finally get a civil rights bill passed during the flagrant CR violations of Jim Crow, much less John Quincy Adams fighting the gag rule against talking about slavery, or the simple fact that Northern Republicans proposed eliminating slavery in the Constitution, but instead were banned from eliminating slave trade for 20 years, and then of course it took about a century with trying to avoid Congress rarely the radical step abolitionists wanted before Independence. Meanwhile, in 1772, British courts ruled slaves escaped to Britain could not be deported back to the country where they were slaves against their will, and implied more generally that a slave had rights and personhood.

Anyway, that is to say, courts: not all bad. Roberts: pretty bad. Congress: not all good.

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