We use the expression break the law to mean violate or disobey the law. But there is also break as in break into tiny, meaningless pieces. (And violate as in abuse or rape.) The Supreme Court is actively involved in breaking the law in this second sense. GOP controlled State Legislatures and Governors are doing this. DJT is and has been breaking the law in both senses for years in his asserting that anything that serves his immediate, short-term self-interest is truth and the law, anything that opposes him is criminal and evil.
Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner argued recently that the Supreme Court, which used to and is needed to represent stability, fairness, and temperance has now “become headquarters for a majority group of highly partisan, reactionary players who make clear that they are uninhibited by history, precedent, or the will of the majority of the American people.” Their actions are about asserting power, not fostering the rule of constitutional law.
In one decision they argued for originalism, for the impossible task of sticking with the founding fathers’ original viewpoints. This view ignores the fact that the founding fathers lived in a very different time, where slavery was legal, women and men who didn’t own land couldn’t vote. Where the weapon of choice on the battlefield was a flintlock musket, there were no computers, and the world wasn’t threatened by a climate emergency. And they were all fathers, men.
In another of last week’s rulings, Oklahoma v Castro-Huerta, regarding Indigenous American sovereignty, the Court went against originalism. The ruling asserted a state’s jurisdiction over crimes committed on Tribal Lands. This, as even Justice Gorsuch wrote, violates not only precedent but founding-era understanding of law.
In 1832 the court ruled in Worcester v Georgia that the federal government had exclusive power to manage relations with Native nations, not states. Thus, this new court ruling violated its own legal opinions and destabilizes the rule of law and the court’s function of upholding the stability of the law. Instead, it asserts minority rule.
A Washington Post article by Colby Itkowitz and Isaac Stanley-Becker revealed the Court has agreed to hear a case involving the “independent legislature theory,” a conservative legal theory that asserts state legislatures should have virtually unchecked power over federal elections. It would erode basic tenets of American democracy including applying the rule of law equally to everyone and basing the ultimate source of all law in the people.
“[I]n its most far-reaching interpretation, it could cut governors and state courts out of the decision-making process on election laws while giving state lawmakers free rein to change rules to favor their own party. The impact could extend to presidential elections in 2024 and beyond, …making it easier for a legislature to disregard the will of its state’s citizens.”
Texas and other states have joined in this effort to undermine the rule of law. In its 2021 anti-abortion legislation, it created a sort of vigilante justice by deputizing citizens to sue and enforce the law instead of government officials. And it would pay the vigilantes $10,000 for each successful suit. According to a New York Times article by Sabrina Tavernise, whereas if Texas had put enforcement in the hands of state officials, those officials could be sued by abortion advocates aiming to bring their case to court….
*To read the whole article, please click on the link to The Good Men Project who first published it.