As a Senator, John McCain has helped George W. Bush pack the federal courts with right wing judges, judges who serve for life and who will extend the legacy of President Bush for decades to come. In fact, it seems that Senator McCain has never met a bad Bush judicial nominee he didn’t like, including John Roberts and Samuel Alito. With McCain’s help, Roberts is now the Chief Justice of the United States, and Alito is right by his side on the Supreme Court.
And with McCain continuing to heap praise on Roberts and Alito, it’s only fitting, as we approach the first anniversary of one of the most harmful rulings in which Roberts and Alito have participated, to take a look at the damage done in that one decision alone.
Lilly Ledbetter worked for decades in a Goodyear Tire plant in Alabama, the kind of place where so many Americans work. But until Lilly received an anonymous tip late in her career, she had no idea that for years on end she was being paid far less than were her male colleagues doing the same work –- and that the unequal pay was the result of a discriminatory evaluation.
As George Orwell might put it, all Supreme Court decisions are important, but some are more important than others. And in the history of our country, there can be little doubt that one of the Court’s most important decisions was its unanimous ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, decided 54 years ago this May 17th. Overturning the shameful "separate but equal" doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson and striking down school segregation laws, the ruling in Brown gave substance to the Constitution’s promise of equality for all. Without question, May 17, 1954 saw the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, at its very best.
Flash forward 53 years, to June 28, 2007. On that date, a bitterly divided 5-4 Supreme Court, now headed by Bush-nominee John Roberts, invalidated the school-assignment plans adopted by two public school districts to promote racial diversity in their schools. Joining Chief Justice Roberts in striking down those plans were Justices Samuel Alito (the Court’s other Bush-nominee), Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Anthony Kennedy.
A very heroic woman died yesterday. She probably never wanted to be a hero. She did want to be a wife, though. But back in Virginia in the late 1950s, when Mildred Jeter, a black woman, fell in love with Richard Loving, a white man, and they decided to marry, that was indeed a heroic act. Not only because of society's prejudices, but also because it was a crime -- a felony punishable by one to five years in prison. Virginia's law prohibiting interracial marriage wasn't some unenforced statute, either. Oh no, Virginia was quite serious about keeping the races from "mixing." The County Sheriff burst into the Lovings' home in the middle of the night, and Mildred and Richard were charged as criminals and prosecuted -- that's right -- prosecuted -- for having gotten married. They pleaded guilty and were sentenced to a year in prison. The trial judge, in a moment of magnanimity, made the Lovings an offer they couldn't refuse: he agreed to suspend their prison sentence for 25 years if they would just leave Virginia and not return for a quarter of a century. He also had this to say about interracial marriage:
The state of Indiana has the most restrictive voter I.D. law in the country. Show up at the polls without a currently valid, government-issued photo I.D., and you can't vote. I realize that to many Americans, that doesn't sound like much of a burden. And for many Americans, it isn't.
But it is a very substantial burden for many groups of eligible voters, including the elderly who don't drive, college students, and the poor who don't own cars. There's a great deal of overlap between those who are unduly burdened by this law and Democratic voting constituencies. It's probably no coincidence, then, that support for Indiana’s restrictive law came from Republicans in the state legislature.
Indeed, the law is a "solution" looking for a problem, since Indiana has been unable to identify a single case of in-person voter fraud occurring in its history. In fact, studies have shown that widespread, in-person voter fraud simply does not exist, whereas many eligible voters do in fact lack the I.D. that laws such as this require.
April 18, 2007 is the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling upholding a federal ban on certain abortion procedures even though the law did not include an exception to protect a woman’s health. And that ruling, which significantly chips away at women's reproductive freedom, upheld the federal ban even though the Court had struck down a virtually identical state law several years ago. What had changed in the interim? Well, as Justice Ginsburg observed in her dissent in last year's case, only the composition of the Court. Justice O'Connor, who had voted with the majority to strike down the state law, had been replaced by Justice Alito, who voted in last year's case to uphold the ban.
Samuel Alito, an extreme, far right nominee, was put on the Supreme Court by President Bush and complicit Senators.
Senate Republicans are in the midst of another temper tantrum, hurling accusations against Senate Democrats that the pace of confirmation of President Bush's judicial nominees is too slow. Never mind that during the Clinton Administration, the Republican-controlled Senate repeatedly blocked scores of Clinton nominees, not even giving them a hearing or a vote and keeping seats on courts vacant literally for years on end. Never mind that President Bush's judicial nominees have fared far better under the leadership of Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy. Hypocrisy is not a word found anywhere in the Republican Dictionary of the American Language. But chutzpah certainly is.