Friday, July 5, 2013

Supreme Court Schizophrenia

Mister Roberts

When the Supreme Court disemboweled the 1965 Voting Rights Act last week, it seemed pretty clear that the Justices had swapped out their black robes for white. You know, the ones with the hoods. But then, not 24 hours later, they struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—the most significant pro Gay Rights decision in a generation. The same courthouse steps that played host to angry civil rights veterans on Tuesday, gave way to ecstatic gay marriage supporters on Wednesday.


This isn’t the first outbreak of SCOTUS Schizophrenia in Washington DC recently. Back on January 21, 2010 in Citizens United, the Supreme Court decided (to their everlasting shame) that when it comes to elections—money is speech and corporations are people. Not 24 months later they turned around and put their Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval on the Affordable Care Act---a.k.a. Obamacare.

I don’t know about you but these folks have my head spinning. We’ve got one Justice demeaning the right of blacks to vote as the “perpetuation of racial entitlement,” while another blasts domestic partnerships as “skim milk marriages.”

Just when we’re ready to storm the barricades, they throw us a nice big bone. What are we to make of this Roberts Court—with a single swing vote bouncing back and forth between the moderate left and the radical right like some supercharged tennis ball?

Who is Mr. Justice Roberts? Well, he has three sisters and no brothers. So clearly he learned to play well in the sandbox at an early age. He was a pretty good high school wrestler—which is no doubt where he mastered the art of using the other fella’s weight against him.

He was first nominated to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in 1992 by Bush The Elder but the Senate refused to confirm him. Bush The Younger tried in 2001 and again the Senate stuffed him. W submitted Roberts’ name in 2003 and the third time was a charm---but I’m guessing congress is probably not his favorite branch of government.

Two years later, when Sandra Day O’Connor retired, Bush 43 called Roberts up to the Majors. No sooner had he been nominated to fill O’Connor’s seat on the Big Bench when Chief Justice Rehnquist died. Suddenly Roberts—who had clerked for Rehnquist way back in 1980--found himself being fitted for that robe with the gold sleeve bars---the one belonging to the Chief Justice.

To sit on the bench, Roberts took an $800,000 a year pay cut—so he really must love being a judge. But none of this explains the crazy unpredictability of the Court over which he presides. Oh, there’s one more thing I forgot to mention. He also owns a small piece of a cottage in County Limerick, Ireland. Maybe that’s a clue--the Irish connection. After all, leprechauns love mischief.

I just can’t figure out—from one day to the next—whether Justice John Roberts is the creature on the Lucky Charms box, or Leprechaun 2. Stay tuned.