The US Supreme Court is supposed to be the ultimate adjudicator of the U.S. justice system as it applies to the U.S. Constitution and federal law. However, recent actions by the Court, and the documented actions of some of its members, have highlighted what appears to be a serious erosion of some Court principles, and this has called into question the integrity of the whole system.
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all federal court cases, and over state court cases that involve a point of U.S. Constitutional or federal law. The court holds the power of judicial review, and the ability to invalidate a statute for violating a provision of the Constitution. It is also able to strike down presidential directives for violating either the Constitution or statutory law. However, it may act only within the context of a case in an area of law over which it has jurisdiction. The court may decide cases having political overtones, but has ruled that it does not have power to decide non-judicial political questions.
Historically, the Supreme Court was established by Article III of the United States Constitution, after a contentious discussion over whether such a body should even exist – many states were against such a federal system. Eventually, the Founding Fathers compromised, by sketching only a general outline of the judiciary in that Article III, vesting federal judicial power in “one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” That general outline delineated, neither the exact powers of the Supreme Court, nor the organization of the judicial branch as a whole. Those composition and procedures were established later, by the 1st Congress, through the Judiciary Act of 1789.
If I may be permitted a crass comment here. It seems as if, from the U.S. Constitution point of view, what the Supreme Court is, together with what it does, is a case of “make it up as you go along”. In other words, almost any action can be interpreted as within the Constitution since Article III doesn’t actually prohibit anything. Maybe that’s why over 70% of the world’s lawyers are in the U.S.
The advent of the Donald Trump era has shown that the system can be manipulated in ways never thought of before or, at least, never actually tried before; for example, I have wondered how a political case can go directly from the White House to the Supreme Court without ever going through the judicial system that most cases have to negotiate to get there. While I’m at it, how can the system allow a minor federal judge from god-knows where to issue a personal injunction that stops a nationwide Federal decision dead in the water: surely that’s a case of the tail wagging the dog. On a broader level, how could the Court revoke Roe vs Wade, when over 70% of the country is opposed to that revocation. I go back to my comment that the Constitution doesn’t stop them from doing almost anything. Something smells, and it’s not healthy for the future of the country.
Then we come to the antics and abuses of Justice Clarence Thomas. What ever happened to ethics and integrity? I could also ask, what happened to obeying the law and the regulations governing the Supreme Court and its justices, but it appears there aren’t any. They have just been assumed, so Thomas will probably get away with everything he’s done. He seems to have no principles, apart from personal greed, so he can argue that he has done nothing wrong and, unfortunately, he is right in a legal and constitutional sense. Even his wife’s use of her “position” for political purposes and financial gain doesn’t seem to have violated any laws or regulations.
I could end this rant but saying it’s time for a change, but who can/will make any such changes. The Court itself seems incapable and, indeed, seems to think it is below their dignity to do so. They seem to think they are not accountable to anyone, not even the American people. I suppose the U.S. Senate could impose regulations, if they had the nerve, but the Supreme Court could, theoretically, overturn them.
This is more than a constitutional dilemma, it is a fundamental flaw in the system that will be difficult to resolve without a Constitutional Convention, and that seems virtually impossibly anytime soon.
If any of my readers has any ideas as to how this deplorable and dangerous situation might be resolved, I’d love to hear from you.