Saturday, March 11, 2006

Justice O'Connor on Judicial Independence

Former Justice O’Connor has spoken out about the need for Judicial Independence in America, even using the term dictatorship. Her speech shows exactly why she was a bad Justice. She does not understand Judicial Independence.

In her speech Justice O’Connor quotes the Republican attacks on Judicial system. She never names names, but quotes Tom Daly and Justice Sunday. She states her opposition to judicial reform based on partisan politics. All of this she believes threatens Judicial Independence and is the beginning of dictatorships.

I have two major problems with this speech. I believe they correspond to two major flaws of Justice O’Connor. The first is her misunderstanding of Judicial Independence. We do have Judicial Independence in this country. I am not aware of any laws proposed by Mr. Daly or the Republican Congress that reshapes the Supreme Court or Federal courts at all. To have Judicial Independence threatened their must be a law of some sort. The only possible example is the Terri Schavio case where Congress passed a law to allow a Federal Court to hear the case. When the courts did nothing, Congress did not step in again. So, even this example is weak. The Republican Party did run on a platform of picking judges to sit on the bench, but that is hardly a threat to Judicial Independence that is simply how the Constitution says judges are to be chosen. People are allowed to criticize judicial decisions. This is what Justice O’Connor really seems upset about. Mr. Daly and others publicly said the Supreme Court was wrong. Justice O’Connor thinks that is a threat to Judicial Independence. While it may be a threat to the Judicial Dominance that has been going on for several decades, it is hardly a threat to the system as a whole. It is simply a healthy pull and tug for power that the Founders of the Constitution placed in the Constitution. Checks and Balances really means a struggle for power. As long as our government is fighting for control between the branches the people are safe. When the President takes too much power, invariably the Congress tugs back. Exhibit A is what is going on in D.C. right now. When the Supreme Court tells Congress its laws are all wrong for too long, expect Congress to take a swing back at the Court. It is a tension filled system, but a system that works. Justice O’Connor wants to be praised, but not criticized. This simply shows a complete lack of understanding of how the American Government works. If she thinks people should just accept Supreme Court decisions without speaking a word, she needs to read more about President Andrew Jackson.

Second, Justice O’Connor seems to have no understanding of how dictatorships work. It is a nice fantasy that once Judicial Independence is gone then dictators rise to power, but in the end it is simply a self-aggrandizing fantasy with no basis in reality. Name one example of dictatorship by political takeover of a judicial system. Try it. Now think of some dictators and how they came to power. Yes, they come to power on the backs of horses or tanks or armies. Julius Caesar, Lennin, Chairman Mao, Castro, any dictator in Africa or South America, even Napoleon. American has had plenty of actual attempts to interfere with Judicial Independence. FDR got all of his Welfare State passed by threatening to put more justices on the bench. Abraham Lincoln tried to arrest Chief Justice Taney for issuing a decision against Lincoln’s government. Are we in a dictatorship now? No, no we are not. Is Justice O’Connor upset about those Presidential actions? No, I doubt it.

Justice O’Connor’s inability to understand the Constitution and history help explain some of her bad decisions on the court. I hope history picks up on this speech and judges her for it.