The only thing more surprising than the historically partisan John Roberts led Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the majority of President Obama’s signature legislation, named the Affordable Care Act but better known as Obamacare, is the fact that the conservative Chief Justice John Roberts was the key swing vote that upheld the law. I was distracted by earning a living when the announcement was actually made. Like many people who have seen some incredibly conservative positions taken by our current representatives in the judicial branch of government, I would’ve bet good money that the law would have been struck down in a five to four decision that went straight down party affiliations. I was floored to see it pass. And when I read that it was the conservative Mr. Roberts himself who joined the liberal side of the court’s bench, I fell through that proverbial floor all the way to some subterranean rock bed.
Since his appointment to the bench Mr. Roberts has been a huge disappointment for me. This is the man that presided over a court that said the best way for the country to heal from its perpetual tolerance for racial disparity is to quit looking at racial disparity. This is the man that presided over the court’s decision to count corporations as people. This is the man that presided over the court’s decision to allow unlimited money to influence politics because money equals free speech. Money equals free speech like corporations equal people. But that’s the type of path the Supreme Court has taken.
With so many decisions going the way of big business and against people, conservatives were confident that anything that goes before the nation’s high court is pretty much in the bag. It’s why conservatives are drooling for the chance to have the Supreme Court reevaluate things like women’s rights to abortion services or business owner rights trump civil rights. The way some conservatives tell it, people have the right to be racists and racists have the right to deny the civil rights of certain segments of the population.
This is a court with a justice on the bench whose wife actively lobbies on behalf of conservatives. Virginia Thomas started the Liberty Consulting lobbying group to organize conservative activities and issue scores on how well members of Congress adhere to conservative policies and practice. This woman openly refers to President Obama as a tyrannical leftist and says that Democrats are working to erode the governing principles of the country’s founding fathers. Ms. Thomas assures her clients that she will use her experience and “connections” to help with governmental affairs and policy issues. And yet, Justice Clarence Thomas has never recused himself from matters before the bench that are being influenced by his wife. Mr. Thomas has yet to make a single decision on an issue that goes against his wife’s wishes.
This is a very conservative friendly court. But nevertheless, Obamacare survived thanks to Mr. Roberts. Not since the Grinch changed his mind about Christmas and all the Whos in Whoville have we’ve ever seen such an about face. Naturally, whenever jaw dropping events happen in politics, a lot of people will lineup and speculate over why Mr. Roberts did what he did. No doubt there are some people who might have an excellent idea as to his motivation. The other justices may have a good idea. People close to Mr. Roberts might be in the know. But the rest of us can only pull guesses out of our asses as to what could have caused Mr. Roberts’ change of heart.
It has been hypothesized that Mr. Roberts may have been motivated by a desire to prevent his court from being seen as political as it has been since his tenure. Like the other branches of government, polls show that the public support for the Supreme Court is falling, perhaps due to the growing realization that the justices, like corporations and other people, pursue partisan agendas. Maybe Mr. Roberts is taking it upon himself to try and reverse some of the self inflicted damage to the high court’s reputation to handle its business without partisanship.
If that’s true then Mr. Roberts continues to do the court no favors. If his motivation is some misguided sensitivity for his or the court’s reputation then Mr. Roberts is only trying to correct his previous wrongs with another wrong, and that’s wrong. Another wrong to top things off doesn’t help make things right. It only makes the string of wrongs longer and wrong-er. Deciding the constitutionality of law is far from being an easy job. I know for a fact that I’m woefully equipped to handle such matters. But the more I look at the happenings of the court the more I’m convinced that some of the people trusted to perform that role are just as woeful.
If it is indeed true that the Supreme Court now has a problem with its reputation then we’ve got serious problems in our future. If any of the justices are making decisions and operating under the belief that he or she has a reputation to save, then that justice is not making decisions of law based solely on the facts of the case but on other factors that really shouldn’t apply. And if a justice is willing to make decisions based on other factors that should not have any merit on the case, then that is a justice that has demonstrated their unfitness for the job.
Regardless of the ruling, if people believe that Mr. Roberts is showing a weakness to be liked strong enough to influence his ability to judge law then he really is a problem. He’s no better than the justice who wants to vote with his or her political affiliations or the justice that wants to help his wife with her conservative lobbying business. If it is true that the court suffers from a reputation for partisanship and this was a contributing factor for Mr. Robert’s sudden change in thinking then it doesn’t bode well for the future of the country or the future of the court.