After the Supreme Court came down on the wrong side of two important rulings this summer, Americans protective of the Constitution began to seriously wonder about the court’s political bias. No group of judges can be free from their own political prejudice, but the rulings on gay marriage and Obamacare struck many conservatives as straying too far from a legal foundation. The court’s attempts to justify these rulings were insufficient. It seemed obvious that at least a few of the sitting Justices were voting according to their predetermined ideology before scrambling to find case law that would support their decision. By what other process could the court feel authorized to redefine the meaning of marriage?
Speaking Wednesday to students at the New England School of Law, Chief Justice John Roberts said that he was unbothered by criticism aimed at the court, except that which presupposed the existence of bias. “It’s usually discussed as, ‘Oh, you’re in favor of this or you’re in favor of that,'” Roberts said. “In fact, our ruling is that whoever does get to decide this or that is allowed to do it, and that it’s not unconstitutional, that it’s consistent with the law. But we often have no policy views on the matter at all. And that’s an important distinction.”
Important? More like laughably unbelievable. Perhaps Roberts can claim this sort of objectivity for himself, but the court’s repeated 5-4 rulings along party lines make it a tough pill to swallow for the panel as a whole. With just one more conservative Justice on the court, those two significant summer decisions would have gone the other way. How can that be true if the Justices have no “policy views” relevant to the cases before them? Is anyone really buying this nonsense?
Unfortunately, this is a problem without any obvious cure. Loading the court up with conservatives might be beneficial for the short-term direction of the country, but it would only set us up for a rebound effect the next time a Democrat is in the White House. Over the long haul, the polarity will only grow stronger. The problem with that is: what happens when activist liberals have such a stranglehold on the Supreme Court that they can fundamentally change the country with a single ruling?
The answer may lie in demanding more culpability from the court. Their decisions must be brought out into the light, criticized, and examined publicly. These Justices should be under constant pressure to defend their decisions. We may not be able to quickly change the political biases of our nation’s highest court, but we can at least let them know that we’re watching.