Monday, March 15, 2010

Supreme Sensibilities

I don't know if where you live you have come across the reports of Chief Justice John Roberts' reaction to the State of the Union Speech.  This is the speech where President Obama expressed his disapproval of the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. FEC which is interpreted here and in the dissent by Associate Justice Stevens as enshrining the First Amendment rights of corporations to the detriment of you and me.  Chief Justice Roberts had described President Obama's expression of an opinion on the decision in the State of the Union speech as "very troubling."  Oh, sweet irony!

In the Citizens United case the Supremes greenlighted unfettered purchase of our democracy, and courts by corporate bullies and robber barons. But sitting through a Constitutionally mandated presidential speech is "troubling," when God forbid you get criticized, at lest for Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts.  What part of democratic government does Chief Justice Roberts like?   That part where he wears the robe and tells the ligtigants that time is up, I guess.  From the street level-view of the Bad Lawyer, this Roberts/Alito/State of the Union episode perfectly encapsulates what's wrong with our democracy:  we really are incapable of telling the truth or hearing the truth on a granular level.  We require a level of bullshit even among the adults who are elected and selected to run our government, including the Supreme Court.

The Suprmes have given us such interesting developments: especially the idea that corporations are "persons."  Corporations have "free" speech rights.  Corporations now spend billions of dollars buying up your local, state, and federal govenrments including your judiciary in effect taking away our "free speech" rights, think I'm exaggerating, look at Carperton vs. Massey Coal or the campaign cash/rulings chart for the Ohio Supreme Court at Adam Liptak's Sidebar blawg at the NYT.   Look at the distortions money has on the Minnesota and Michigan Supreme Courts. 

The federal bench is populated for the most part, by very brilliant, scholastic and legal stars.  The federal judiciary are chosen from academic and professional high achievers nominated by politically powerful elites in a complicated but nearly invisible, to us, process.  Sometimes, the curtain slips and the horse trading and wrangling comes into view--but, usually not.  Still strikingly smart and capable people make it to the federal bench.   Generally speaking thow who make it he Supreme Court are chosen from the cream of these elites Judges (with the current exceptio of Justice Sotomayor) who have even served at a trial level.  That Supeme Court Justices like Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justice Alito don't get the whole hoi polloi thing; and, that the experience of democracy might be discomfitting in that raucous echo-chamber, the Congress, isn't terribly surprising.   I understand this, but I'm disappointed--when these Justices grant personhood on corporations and allow corporations to snap up our government, like so much merger and acquisition maybe it's a good and palliative thing that they should have to hear a loud and uncomfortable dissent that they can't gavel down.


  1. President expresses opinion to Supreme Court. Call the Amber Lamps! Chief Justice is leakin'.

  2. Words hurt. Words just aren't words. In the Creaton story, God creates the universe with "mere words," "let there be light."

    I suffer mightily from mere words, spoken and unspoken, but you would think these guys with lifetime appointments would be made of sterner stuff.

    In some ways it reminds me of the scene from Casablanca where the police chief walks into Rick's and with false umbrage shouts, "Gambling! I'm shocked" John Roberts shouts, "politics." Wow, who knew that the Supreme Court was so naive.

  3. And the unions are the robber barons?