One might believe that at age 98 there would be no way to become disillusioned. Every time I see scenes of the Jan. 6 insurrection in our Capitol and view the huge fencing and multi-guards in front of our Supreme Court, I shudder with disbelief.
I remember my first visit to Washington D.C. My husband, Marty, had occasion with his work to travel to D.C. and he was my well-informed tour guide of our government buildings. His attorney-in-good-standing card afforded us entry to the Supreme Court while it was in session. This unique opportunity to visit the austere chambers of the court had me awestruck. The decorum as the justices discussed and sometimes dissented on issues caused me to respect the court and its decisions with patriotic fervor.
On this visit I thought this Court represented what I defined as democracy. The authors of our Constitution were so sure that the Supreme Court justices would be apolitical, knowledgeable and fair, that the Court and its justices were not accountable to any other unit of government. Each Supreme Court justice was to be free of any party affiliation; completely devoted to Constitutional principles, and above any possibility of corruption. They would loyally support the basic rule that all are equal under the law.
I am sure there have been many times in our history when justices may have been either unqualified and/or biased, but the millions of dollars of dark money that is now paid to corrupt our Supreme Court is a new phenomenon. I should note that this influence started on a small scale before the Trump administration was in office. It shocked me to learn that corporate funds and the Republican Party payoffs began with the George W. Bush administration. During his administration some of his advisors recognized the value of influencing the Supreme Court. One was quoted as saying, “Own the Supreme Court, own the law.”
George W. Bush had the unusual opportunity of selecting two justices within a 5-month period, as a result of the death William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement. Two staunch Republicans, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, were their replacements. Both were strong corporate loyalists who lied in their Senate interviews so they could be placed on the court. Soon after confirmation, they aggressively fought for their corporate donors by ruling for the outrageous Citizens United decision and against the Voting Rights Act.
Although money used for these judicial confirmations does not require public disclosure, knowledge of some of the dark money was leaked to the public. During the Trump administration, the millions of dollars contributed for bribery was far less hidden. The culprits were Coors Beer, Searle Drug Companies, Mercer and Scaife of Wall Street and the media, the Olin Family, and the Koch brothers. The money was distributed to the Federalist Society and then funneled to the justice candidates of the donor’s choosing. This corrupting bundle resulted in three more biased Supreme Court justices appointed by former President Trump: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.
During President Obama’s administration, in February of 2016, Antonin Scalia died. President Obama nominated as his replacement Merrick Garland, but it was blocked by the Republican-held Senate. It was rumored that the Koch Brothers paid $17.9 million dollars to way-lay this nomination. It is sad to recall that Judge Garland was not even allowed to appear for a confirmation hearing. It’s also disheartening that we are facing the same well-paid justices to decide very important issues today.
Unfortunately, there seems to be an agreement and willingness among these six conservative justices to permit voter suppression, racial gerrymandering, attacks against immigrants, ignorant book banning, the “don’t say gay” campaign, the repeal of equal education requirements, the rejection of science, the white-washing of history, cuts to Social Security and social service needs, rollbacks of environmental and health protections, the denial of climate change protections, and now the projected reversal of Roe v. Wade.
Is this the 2022 version of “equal justice under the law?” Lisa Graves of True North Research was one of the researchers of this “justice,” or lack thereof. She calls it the new “Just Us” system, catering to the wishes of corporations, the super-wealthy, white supremacists, and the selfish, greedy and power-mad new autocratic Republicans. This financial bonanza was also researched by a 2019 Washington Post investigation, a report by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a “Fix the Courts” study, and True North Research.
The Supreme Court that I once admired as the epitome of Constitutional Law no longer earns my respect. In fact, I’m ashamed of what it now represents.