Friday, May 8, 2009

An Empathetic Ear on the Supreme Court?

With the prospect of having a new Supreme Court Justice sitting on the bench next fall enjoying a life time appointment, it occurs to me that many people do not understand the basic tenants of the framework of our government. I sense this by the words often used by our leadership. The word empathy in specific comes to mind. A judge does not need empathy. Social workers need empathy. Judges need only be expert with the law, our constitution, and of course behave rational. This simply means they need to know their role when it comes to the law. This role is to evaluate the case being presented within court against established law. Law established by Congress.

This also means the Court, any court cannot create legislation, nor creatively interpret the law. This leads to horrible consequences such as Separate but Equal case of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 only to be finally overturned in 1954 by Brown v. Board of Education, which itself was muddled until congress finally had enough and took action in 1964 with some creative motivation from the Executive branch (LBJ) and more recently, another egregious example - the eight years of the G.W. Bush administration.

So now, our President wants an empathic ear on the Supreme Court. Do we truly want this? I know I do not. I know I do not want someone who swings a like a sheet in a breeze on a clothes line based on the public popular opinion of the day, unless that opinion is expressed by a law passed by any elected official legislative body. What does this mean? I believe it important to remember the purpose of the Court is to be the Court. That is, to check and balance the enforcement of the Executive branch of our government. We cannot have one single branch deciding for itself to do more than it was intended outside the constitutional boundaries without expecting unfortunate consequences. If you want to change the law, there is a mechanism to do this. It is called the Legislative branch. Every so often, we the people have an opportunity, a responsibility to vote and elect our representative government. The men and women in black robes on the Supreme Court? Nope, they are there with only a hearing. Once there, they hold much power - forever. For a lifetime. Five individuals should not be allowed to undermine the legislative process. There are three branches of our federal system, for a reason. Why do we forget this? The last eight years, we lacked the checks and balances built into system of government. I think we deserve those back. That was the change I voted for.

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