Submitted by Gene Howington
The following is an excerpt from an NYT opinion piece about the manifest political division in the Robert’s Supreme Court. This long standing problem in a branch of government that is, by Constitutional charter, not allowed to make political decisions is a running topic both on this blog and elsewhere. I encourage you all to read this piece and share your thoughts.
“The Polarized Court by Adam Liptak
May 10, 2014
WASHINGTON — WHEN the Supreme Court issued its latest campaign finance decision last month, the justices lined up in a familiar way. The five appointed by Republican presidents voted for the Republican National Committee, which was a plaintiff. The four appointed by Democrats dissented.
That 5-to-4 split along partisan lines was by contemporary standards unremarkable. But by historical standards it was extraordinary. For the first time, the Supreme Court is closely divided along party lines.
The partisan polarization on the court reflects similarly deep divisions in Congress, the electorate and the elite circles in which the justices move.
The deep and often angry divisions among the justices are but a distilled version of the way American intellectuals — at think tanks and universities, in opinion journals and among the theorists and practitioners of law and politics — have separated into two groups with vanishingly little overlap or interaction. It is a recipe for dysfunction.
The perception that partisan politics has infected the court’s work may do lasting damage to its prestige and authority and to Americans’ faith in the rule of law.
‘An undesirable consequence of the court’s partisan divide,’ said Justin Driver, a law professor at the University of Texas, ‘is that it becomes increasingly difficult to contend with a straight face that constitutional law is not simply politics by other means, and that justices are not merely politicians clad in fine robes. If that perception becomes pervasive among today’s law students, who will become tomorrow’s judges, after all, it could assume a self-reinforcing quality.’
Presidents used to make nominations based on legal ability, to cater to religious or ethnic groups, to repay political favors or to reward friends. Even when ideology was their main concern, they often bet wrong.
Three changes have created a courthouse made up of red and blue chambers. Presidents care more about ideology than they once did. They have become better at finding nominees who reliably vote according to that ideology. And party affiliation is increasingly the best way to predict the views of everyone from justices to bank tellers.”
Read the rest at the New York Times and tell us what you think.