Trust is deep-seated belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, and effective, and can be counted on to remain faithful to the reason they expect to be trusted in the first place. For most Americans, the idea of having trust in the justice system is closely related to their experience with the system and because the great majority of Americans have no reason the distrust the judiciary at any level they assume that justice is, indeed, blind and fair. Since the highest court in the land has the Constitution and legal precedent as its guide, there was a time when few Americans had misgivings about 9 jurists wielding immense power over the government and the people because they were expected to render decisions fairly according to established precedent and the law of the land, the U.S. Constitution.
The current conservative Supreme Court has shown an increasing predilection to brush aside precedent and the Constitution as its guide and rely solely on their affiliation with the Republican Party, the Koch brothers, corporations, and religious fundamentalists for how to decide cases that affect every American. The conservatives have been so blatant in their service to special interests that Americans have taken notice, and a new poll reveals the people have lost faith in, and are weary of, this conservative Court’s rulings exclusively serving the interests of the Republican Party, Koch brothers and corporations, and Christian Dominionists by a very wide margin. One thing is abundantly clear; Americans no longer trust the conservative Court to follow the Constitution, adhere to precedent, or protect the very democracy they are manifestly dismantling at an alarming rate.
The people’s trust in the Supreme Court began eroding with the appointment of George W. Bush as president despite losing the 2000 general election to Democrat Al Gore, and subsequent rulings have the people demanding sweeping reforms to clear out corrupt conservatives on the Supreme Court. According to results of the survey, the poll discovered that the breaking points were the Court’s 5-4 party-line rulings that ended a century of campaign finance law and skewed the rules in favor of the extremely wealthy and major corporations. Wide majorities were appalled by the landmark Citizens United ruling by an overwhelming margin of 80-18, as well as the more recent McCutcheon decision lifting limits on campaign contributions respondents said would lead to more corruption and much less democracy which was the conservative’s intent in ruling for the Kochs and Republicans.
Amazingly, just when one believed most Americans were comatose and unconcerned that conservatives on the Court were anything but impartial jurists, by a 60-36 spread the people surveyed said Supreme Court justices carried out personal or conservative political agendas rather than working to render a fair and impartial judgment founded on precedent and the Constitution; an opinion, by the way, that cut across party lines. What respondents noted was that despite Chief Justice John Roberts oath before Congress during his confirmation that he had great respect for precedent, once confirmed he immediately embarked on a run of conservative judicial activism favoring the wealthy and undermining affirmative action, castrating voting rights protections, and most recently demolishing the Separation and Establishment clauses of the First Amendment to hand Dominionists what they needed to impose a Christian theocracy. Huge majorities in the poll said that it is long past the time to end Supreme Court justices’ lifetime appointments, proceedings should be video-taped and televised, justices should disclose financial conflicts of interest, and be bound by the same U.S. Judicial Code of Conduct ethics rules as every other judge in America of which they have exempted themselves; with good reason.
The problem for Americans concerned their democracy is being dismantled by conservatives on the High Court is there is absolutely nothing can be done to rein in corruption and put an end to ruling according to the Koch brothers and religious right. Of particular note are Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas who frequent secret policy meetings put on by the Koch brothers who detailed the purpose of the meetings is “to recruit captains of industry to fund the conservative infrastructure of front groups, political campaigns, think tanks, and media outlets” such as Fox News. In fact, the Koch brothers used the presence of alleged ‘impartial jurists’ Scalia and Thomas as fundraising solicitations with memos claiming “Past meetings have featured such notable leaders as Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.” According to the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, it is a clear “ethics violation for a judge to lend their name to a political fundraising event,” but since Supreme Court are above following ethical rules governing every other federal judge, Scalia and Thomas pander to the Koch brothers with impunity. Under the Code of Conduct, “a judge should not personally participate in fund-raising activities, solicit funds for any organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for that purpose.” Both Scalia and Thomas attended the Koch’s secret meeting with Citizens United appellants in 2010 and promptly returned to Washington and ruled in their favor as they were directed.
Neither justice thought to recuse themselves from hearing Citizens United and it is a habit Scalia is renowned for. During the Bush administration, Scalia blatantly refused to recuse himself from a suit against then-vice president Dick Cheney even after it was revealed that he and Cheney went on a duck hunting trip together during the pendancy of Cheney’s case. Scalia also came under ethical fire when he skipped Chief Justice Roberts’ swearing in ceremony to attend a junket to a Ritz-Carlton resort funded by the right-wing libertarian Federalist Society; and Thomas accepted more than $42,000 in free gifts in just six years on the Supreme Court. Add to those abominations Thomas’s wife was a paid activist earning $680,000 working for a conservative think-tank, Heritage Foundation, which is funded by foundations of the Koch brothers. Despite his wife’s highly-paid tenure at Heritage between 2003-2007, Thomas conveniently “forgot” to list her earnings on financial disclosures and no-one as much as blinked.
Even though overwhelming majorities of Americans from both ends of the political spectrum have lost all faith in the nation’s highest court, there is precious little anyone can do to reverse the conservative’s assault on democracy. The only recourse is passing new constitutional amendments specifically reversing decisions like Citizens United, McCutcheon, Voting Rights abolition, or establishing America as a Christian nation, or wait for the malcontents to die. Oh, people can sign petition after petition, write to the Court’s justices, or vent their disgust and anger to their congressional representatives, but they may as well spit directly into gale force winds because they will get the same result; a face full of spit.
However, it is somewhat reassuring that at least the overwhelming majority of Americans comprehend that conservatives on the court are ensconced securely in the Koch brothers and Republican policy machine and it is why corporations are people, elections are for sale, voting rights vanish, and Christian prayer is mandated at government meetings by Supreme Court fiat. Within a month, conservatives on the High Court will hand evangelical extremists the ruling that effectively eviscerates the 14th Amendment and establishes free exercise of religion as a final step toward a Christian theocracy and the bible as the Constitution the conservative court is in the process of ruling unconstitutional.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.