Supreme Gang Of Five Making A Mockery Of U.S. Law
By James Donahue
America has had a history of unpopular rulings by the U. S. Supreme Court. The nation still stands
divided over the controversial 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortions throughout the nation. While some decisions
were unpopular and often decided by a split court, they were made by a panel of nine judges that we always believed to have
been struggling over the correct interpretation of the Constitution as it applied to state and national laws.
There has always been a flaw in the way members of the high court have been selected, however.
Vacancies on that bench are filled by presidential appointment and approved by a vote of the Congress. While the judges are
supposed to remain non-partisan and balanced, the very way they are culled for the job gets extremely political. Fortunately
the balance of power in the United States has been in a constant state of change, and the Supreme Court judges, who serve
for life, remained somewhat politically balanced.
The court’s balance shifted in 2006, however, when George W. Bush succeeded in picking John
Roberts to replace Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Sam Alito to succeed Sandra Day O’Connor. Roberts and Alito have
since joined Justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas as the “conservative gang of five” who
have created a run-away right-wing and obviously corporate-owned shift in the American justice system.
Analysis of the court members shows Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas as the conservative wing
with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor standing on the more liberal wing.
Justice Kennedy has been considered a “swing” member of the bench, but he has regularly
joined with the conservatives to generate those scathing 5-4 decisions favoring corporate and big business interests.
The ninth justice, Elena Kagan, joined the bench so recently that her position on issues is still
under scrutiny. She succeeded retiring Justice Paul Stevens, long considered a stabilizing force on the court.
The first odd involvement by the Supreme Court occurred in 2000 after presidential candidates George
W. Bush, Republican, and Al Gore, Democrat, became deadlocked over a final vote count in Florida. The vote was so close Gore
called for a recount. There was concern over possible voter fraud, many voters in high Democratic party districts that were
turned away at the polls, and paper “chards” that may have caused miscounts in voting machines in some precincts.
The issue went on for days and became so hot the matter went before the Supreme Court for what
has gone down in history as an unprecedented and questionable decision that gave Bush the presidency. At the time, Chief Justice
Rehnquist, a known conservative, and Justices Scalia and Thomas moved to stop the recount and give the presidency to Bush.
Justices Breyer, Souter, Ginsburg and Stevens opposed the decision. The remaining members, Kennedy and O’Connor joined
with Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas to create a 5-4 vote.
Professionals who have examined the make-up of the court have since suggested that there were conflicts
of interests involved in the decision. Both Rehnquist and O’Connor had expressed concerns that because of political
leanings their plans to retire would be delayed if Gore won the office. They wanted to retire under a Republican presidency.
Justice Thomas was appointed to the bench by President George H. W. Bush, and Scalia and Kennedy were both appointed by Republican
President Ronald Reagan.
George W. Bush stacked the deck even farther to the right with the appointments of Chief Justice
Roberts and Justice Alito to the bench during his eight-year tenure.
The monkey business became shockingly obvious to the public in 2008 when the court voted 5-4 in
support of an opinion written by Kennedy which, in essence, struck down laws and court rulings dating back over a century
that prohibited corporations and unions from paying large amounts of money to influence the outcome of elections.
The ruling, supported by Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas, determined that corporations have the
same rights as individuals to exercise their First Amendment rights of free speech.
Justice John Paul Stevens, who was still on the bench and among the four dissenters, accused the
majority of “judicial activism.” In his opinion he wrote that “the conceit that corporations must be treated
identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court’s
disposition of this case.”
Stevens called the decision a “radical change” in the law and warned that the ruling
“threatens to undermine the integrity of eleted institutions around the nation.”
Joining Stevens in voting against the ruling were Justices Sotomayor, Ginsburg and Breyer.
The effects of the ruling were quickly felt during the 2008 state and Congressional elections.
The media was besieged with smear campaign ads paid for by mystery sources that maliciously attacked Democratic candidates
and supported a Tea Party movement that appeared to have started as a grass roots affair, but then quickly became financed
and controlled by special interests organizations. The Republicans took control of the House and nearly got a majority of
seats in the Senate. The Obama Administration has remained deadlocked ever since.
The situation is set to become even worse in the 2012 campaign. The Supreme Gang of Five voted
last month to severely curtail the rule of public funding in backing candidates for office. The case, McComish Vs.Bennett,
involved a challenge to Arizona’s public funding system. This was a provision granting “trigger funding”
to participating candidates facing well-funded (i.e. corporate financed) opponents.
Right on que, the high court last month voted 5-4 to declare trigger funds unconstitutional. The
decision will have an impact and lead to unbalanced financing for candidates all over the nation.
What the court has helped set up is a well-financed advertising campaign that will convince a nation
of angry, unemployed voters that the sitting Democratic President Barack Obama has been responsible for the mess the nation
has been in since George W. Bush left office. The Republicans are obviously depending upon voters to switch parties again
in a quest for the change that Obama promised but could not deliver.
If you think the court isn’t now owned by big corporate interests, consider the latest controversial
5-4 ruling that banned state laws prohibiting the sale of violent video games to children, citing free speech rights. The
ruling clearly favored the manufacturers and businesses that sell and distribute the video games.
And then there was the 5-4 decision against the thousands of female Wal-Mart workers who have been
denied the right to join in a class action gender discrimination lawsuit against their employer. The court ruled that they
are individuals working in different communities so they cannot be considered a class.
Huffington Post columnist Peter S. Goodman summed it perfectly when he wrote: “The justices
supplied future historians with a brilliant symbol of how the United States has essentially become a giant gated community
enjoyed by the powerful, with most of the citizens living outside and struggling to nourish themselves.”