The Supreme Court of the United States is, as everyone knows by now, ruminating over the legality of Obamacare. Things are not looking too hot for that particular law, at least based on legal experts’s opinion (real ones, not the imaginary experts President Obama cites in so many speeches).
And because things are not all that rosy, liberals have been making a lot of interesting comments in the press.
- The Supreme Court needs to consider precedent, and failure to do so is inherently unjust.
- The Supreme Court is meeting behind closed doors. Why? What are they hiding? These should be open to the public!
- That the Supreme Court is participating in activism-from-the-bench is the ultimate in conservative hypocrisy. It’s wrong when a California judge makes the law through a legal ruling, but it’s okay for the Supreme Court to do it?
- The Supreme Court’s power is clearly unchecked. They need to have some constraints over what they can do, because right now, they have the power to do whatever they want. And that isn’t right.
To whit, this all adds up to our suspicion that far too many liberals have a very limited understanding of what the Supreme Court of the United States is, how it does business, and why things are done the way they are. And with half of these comments coming from the President himself, a self-described Constitutional law expert, this widespread ignorance of the law is forehead-slapping.
For the record, the Supreme Court is not required to follow any precedent except what is written in the Constitution itself: indeed, the very idea of the Supreme Court overturning a decision is based on rejecting precedent. If the Supreme Court was supposed to follow every precedent set, we would have no need for a Supreme Court. Maybe some liberals think that’s the whole point; who knows?
Second, the Supreme Court—pretty much like most jurisprudence—is neither open to debate or subject to the whim of public opinion. Just as juries meet in private to prevent interruption, corruption, and intimidation, so too the Supreme Court meets in private to take progress votes, discuss, debate, review evidence, and take a deep breath. Sorry if this isn’t more entertaining for you, but C-SPAN doesn’t have the highest ratings either. Indeed, the Supreme Court has not acted any differently with Obamacare than it has since…well, maybe since 1794 when they actually agreed to use a jury to help them decide one case.
Third, the President appears to have skipped any teaching of Marbury v Madison, which says that the Supreme Court absolutely has the power to determine the constitutionality of a law, which it does without regard to political pressure. And since there are nine justices, with a variety of backgrounds, the idea that the Supreme Court engages in activism must assume that the Court is singularly partisan and decides as a single entity. In case the President forgot his law, a group of legal interpreters do not engage in activism, unlike a single judge in some lower court banging a gavel and declaring what laws can and cannot be enforced. The President needs a remedial lesson in what activism is; he seems to have been out of community organizing so long his memory is dimming.
Finally, the Supreme Court of the United States is inherently limited. It cannot self-appoint new members but depends on a President to appoint members and Congress to approve them. The Supreme Court cannot even initiate legal action: a filing must be made and approved by outside entitites first, or a law must be challenged through a series of lower courts and eventually reach the Supreme Court. That’s it. And even then, the Supreme Court will only accept appeals that meet a narrow band of conditions. The Supreme Court appears to be the most limited branch of government we have!
So in short—just like in 2000 when many liberals attacked the Electoral College (which has almost always helped their candidates win elections), liberals demanding changes to the Supreme Court and how it works fail to comprehend how much these requests would backfire. For the President to engage in some of these fantasies shows the clawing desperation that is increasingly characterizing his presidency.