When I was a kid growing up in the Bronx the U.S. Supreme Court always seemed to be above reproach.
Maybe my friends and I were naive, but I think maybe times have really changed. The Supreme Court, once a glaring symbol of constitutional democracy, has now been pulled into the day to day mudslinging of the political process.
To me, as a lawyer that is a true shame. The aura of neutrality around the Supreme Court has evaporated, and now the American public views it through the same partisan-colored glasses as it does the other two branches of government.
A new survey out this month shows the Supreme Court ‘s approval rating at a 25-year-low. The Pew Center for the People and The Press surveyed over 3,000 Americans, and just over half of them (52%) gave the Court a favorable rating. That is down from 58 percent just two years ago, and down from a high of 80% in 1994.
Why? Because the rule of law is no longer the only thing that matters inside the courtroom.
For me it starts with the Court’s ruling on Citizens United vs. FEC. A flurry of Super-PACs and their so-called ‘secret money’ now dominate the national political landscape, because of the 2010 decision that now ratifies their existence and equates corporations with people. If elections are taking an even more negative tone than usual, the court must accept some level of blame.
Some of the language from the recent hearing on health care seemed more appropriate at a Tea Party rally than at our nation’s highest court. Another survey by Bloomberg shows 80 percent of Americans believe that politics, and not the cases’ legal merits, will decide the outcome of Obama’s healthcare legislation.
The court seems more willing than ever to step into the political arena, and the justices ideologies, which should be well-guarded secrets, are on permanent display. Adding insult to injury is their own reckless conduct by attending unseeming junkets connected to conservative and liberal interest groups that at a minimum that create the perception of impropriety.
As my good friend and fellow attorney Allen Kluger said, “I have never seen the Supreme Court as political as it is now.”
Politicians on both sides have accused the justices of political activism. The perception is there that money, politics, and influence, three things that have no place in the Supreme Court, are now allowed at the table.
Right or wrong, our government has done little to dispel that notion, and it has stuck.
These criticisms do not only apply to the US Supreme Court but to the state supreme courts as well.
Here in Florida special interest groups are targeting our justices the same way they do political candidates, simply because their rulings don’t fall into line with their own political ideologies.
And certainly the Florida justices don’t do themselves many favors, as the controversial Roman Pino case certainly carried the whiff of partisanship.
Courtrooms are becoming more polarized than I ever remember, and time and again it appears that power, influence and connections are more important to some than the rule of law.
From The Trenches,