Reflections on the Rule of Law and our Election System
This past Wednesday I was at court (that's what I do when I'm not doing this). The Appellate Division, First Department (second highest court in New York State) is housed in a room which says- we are a nation that exalts the rule of law. I was feeling confident: the Law was on my side. My adversary's brief had been filled with dumb arguments; the kind that made me think when I'd read it that being dumb has apparently become fashionable or why else weren't these guys more embarrassed to take certain positions. During oral argument I realized, to my horror, that many of those dumb arguments seemed credible to some of the justices of the Court. Not the same Appellate Division of my earlier career. Still, even as the system has eroded over the years, my expectation was still that justice would prevail. That's because enough of the time the courts in New York State respond accordingly. That is to say there's enough of a functioning system to believe in.
I know we've traveled far from the early days as young legal services attorneys, sure that the courts would vindicate the rights of the individual; the poor, the voiceless. We had reason to be hopeful. It was the days of the Warren Court, of Justices Douglas and Brennan- outspoken defenders of individual rights. A court in which justices like Blackmun, a lifelong Republican, could rise to the position and evolve to be the author of Roe v Wade.
Not so the present Supreme Court which has dishonored the ideals of this country. Six short years ago that Court thwarted the will of the people and handed the presidency to a loser.
It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to the confidence that will be inflicted by today's decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law. I respectfully dissent. – Justice John Paul Stevens 12-12-2000
And then, as I returned home from Court having put aside my thoughts about the dumbing down of America and those 5 old men on the bench who should have been humiliated, I read with horror how far we'd really fallen. Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood and Gonzales v. Carhart; five more men, two of them hand-picked by the loser – in disregard of science and legal precedence, issued a decision which defies common sense and established law and confirms Justice Stevens' dissent in Gore v Bush.