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High Court Power
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Supreme Gang of 5 Needs To Be Reined In

By James Donahue

When I was a youngster growing up in Harbor Beach, Michigan, everybody in town revered one older house that was maintained as a special place of honor. It was the former home of the late Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy, who was perhaps the most admired person to ever have lived in that community. We looked upon that house was awe. On special occasions the house was open to the public for view, although it was never considered a museum. That was how much we admired people who sat on that hallowed bench.

We don't think that way anymore.

Ever since the Supreme Court intervened in the 2000 presidential elections and gave George W. Bush the presidency before a controversial tight Florida vote count between Bush and Democrat Al Gore was finalized, the public has been questioning the probity of some of the court members.

During the Bush tenure, two additional ultra conservative members were added; Chief Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito. We already had Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia pulling shenanigans that no other lower court judge in the nation would be legally allowed to do. And then there has been the strange waverings of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has been labeled a moderate but whose crucial decisions of late has tilted him to the extreme right. Thus these men comprise the destructive "Gang of Five" in a nine-member court.

With unpopular and questional rulings involving second amendment gun bans, limits on specific abortion procedures, Citizens United and McCutcheon cases that have opened the door to big corporate spending for favored candidates to state and federal offices, and upholding Michigan's ban on affirmative action for college enrollments, more and more Americans are wondering who is pulling the strings over that high bench.

Now the the second time in recent years, a group of Democratic lawmakers is proposing a law that would establish a long needed code of conduct for the Supreme Court. The law, if it gets through a Republican majority house this time (highly unlikely) would hold the supreme court judges to the same ethical standards set for all of the other judges in the nation.

Right now, there is no law establishing the behavior of Supreme Court judges. And why this slipped past the men who framed the constitution, and all of the elected lawmakers since the dawn of this nation, is hard to understand. There must have been a common belief that men and women who rose in stature to be selected for such a high and powerful office would be models of impartial integrity, and offer a fair and balanced interpretation of law based on the Constitution.

A recent poll showed a 60-30 majority of Americans now believe the five Supreme Court justices were carrying out a personal or political agenda rather than rendering a fair and impartial judgment involving campaign financing.

The survey was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a Democratic aligned polling firm. Yet the results were said to have crossed party lines.

The survey found that most Americans now believe the court rulings favor the extremely wealthy and major corporations over the majority of the public's interests.

Those participating in the poll strongly favored a law that sets term limits for appointed judges, cameras should be allowed in the courtroom, and that the judges should disclose financial conflicts of interest and be bound by the same ethics rules that all other judges must live by.

As it stands today, Supreme Court justices decide for themselves if they should recuse themselves from cases where there is personal bias involved. But they are not doing it. For example, Justice Thomas ruled on the Affordable Care act while his wife, Ginni, was being paid to lobby against this law. Also he seemed to "forget" to disclose Ginni's income for her work as a lobbist against healthcare.

Justice Thomas recently appeared as a featured speaker at a Federalist Society fundraiser that was attended by Justices Scalia and Alito. Under the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges, they should have been forbidden from even attending a political fundraising event, but as Supreme Court judges, they are exempt from the code.

And finally, but not least, there have been the questions about the close ties both Thomas and Scalia have to right-wing organizations with funding via the Koch Brothers. These and the other conservative thinking judges appear to be using their positions on the court to promote the Koch brothers' right-wing agenda.

If we don't get this gang of wayward judges under control, it appears that rich power figures . . . alias organized criminals in suits . . . will remain in total control of the United States. And the most direct way to do this is to clean house in the halls of the House and Senate, starting with this fall's elections.