John Marshall, John Marshall Park, Washington, D.C.
AN APPEAL FOR REFORM OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
By David Arthur Walters
July 31, 2018
“The question is in truth between the people and the Supreme Court. We contend that the great constructive principle of our system is in the people of the states, and our opponents that it is in the Supreme Court. This is the sum total of the whole difference; and I hold him a shallow statesman ,who, after proper examination does not see, which is most in conformity to the genius of our system and the most effective and safe in its operation.” (1)
The ideologically stacked United States Supreme Court has made an elephant’s ass of itself at the behest of the Senate and the President by deciding cases on the basis of political ideology conveniently disguised as “conservative” to conserve and advance the interests of the power elite rather than on the substantive merits.
Vacancies on the court have as a matter of fact been openly filled by judges with opinions coinciding with the prejudices of Senators fearful for their own fortunes hence more interested in conserving and augmenting the fortunes of their wealthy patrons than in conserving the liberties of the people at large.
Indeed, the Republican majority in the Senate is proud to declare this berobed embodiment of its temporal prejudice in the highest court the font of the supreme law of the land for decades to come.
Thus are people in common embarrassed by the Senate, the hallowed vestige of the king’s noble court, now subservient to a fortunately temporary king widely believed to be a self-indulgent, impulsive fool, the very laughing stock of the free press he would fain silence for being the best friend of the people.
The Court, on the other hand, has also been crudely disgraced, having taken on the appearance of a long-term donkey court because of its stubborn tendency to self-preservation no matter how asinine its opinions, and a kangaroo court as well because it jumps to ideological conclusions before cases are tried.
This preposterous situation is largely the historical outcome of Alexander Hamilton’s federalist rhetoric; clauses in the Constitution providing for the tenure of justices on good behavior, and the supremacy of the Court; the 25th Section of the 1789 Judiciary Act; and the evolved “judicial review” opinions of a Court that elevated itself over the executive and legislative branches of the national government as well as over the people of the several states, which were sovereign only in rebellion after the Articles of Confederation were replaced with a national Constitution, an inviolable contract in contrast to the former league.
Wherefore a judicial aristocracy, now numbering nine unelected justices, presides over the “living constitution” of the United States. Five justices, to the horror of the other four, are presently committed to politically and culturally regressive policies instead of traditional constructive progress, not to mention the common sense of justice that ancient sages thought every sane adult should have or else be banished from civilization.
No amendment of the Constitution is necessary to remedy the usurpation of power attributed to “judicial review,” for the good reason that judicial review is not one of the powers enumerated in the Constitution in the first place. The Constitution definitely provides for limitations or exclusions from the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction:
“The Supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.”
All that is required to remedy the unconstitutional construction is a judiciary act of Congress, the legitimate legislative body representing the sovereign people, amending or replacing the 1789 Judiciary Act.
The wheel does not need to be reinvented inasmuch as this one has taken us a long way and we have learned a great deal along the journey although we are now at an absurd impasse where we have good reason to ridicule the Supreme Court for making a complete ass of itself under the influence of cracked pots in Congress. Those pots need to be mended and the judiciary reformed. Congress is in fact the sovereign lawmaking institution, and it should form a Constitutional Committee to review the judiciary, compare it with the systems of other advanced nations, and recommend reforms.
For example, the Constitutional Committee might recommend the appointment of a permanent independent Constitutional Council of rotating scholars and laypersons to review all bills for their constitutionality before they are passed into law.
The concept of the judicial review of constitutionality of bills after they are passed into law is rather peculiar to the United States of America, an institution without which, given the milieu of those formative days, we might have no Union.
Lawyers naturally reverence the court of final resort, which should not be mocked as it is now for its usurpation of power. Nevertheless, definite restraints should be put on the appellate power of their hallowed Court. That does not mean it should be completely emasculated. There would remain some cases for the reformed Supreme Court to review, chosen according to the common sense principle laid down by Sir Edward Coke in Dr. Bonham’s case in England, a principle sometimes cited by scholars as a precedent for the development of judicial review in the United States.
“[I]t appears in our books, that in many cases, the common law will control Acts of Parliament, and sometimes adjudge them to be utterly void: for when an Act of Parliament is against common right and reason, or repugnant, or impossible to be performed, the common law will control it, and adjudge such Act to be void.”
Justice Coke did not have to be one of the most profound doctors of jurisprudence or have infinite wisdom to see how ridiculous was the Act of 14 H.S. requiring physicians practicing in London to be examined and obtain a license from the College of London even though Dr. Bonham happened to have gotten his doctorate degree from Justice Coke’s own alma mater, the University of Cambridge.
Since then other judges opined that judges existed to decide cases of law, and to do that they must interpret the law, thus adding common law to statutory law. That is to say that judges must say what the law is in order to apply it. Judges in the American colonies and in the fledging United States had the same opinion from time to time although they were reluctant at first to expound on it for fear of losing their jobs.
Still, it was not the practice for English courts to declare acts unconstitutional for that would constitute an absurdity. The constitution was unwritten, or rather was the whole body of law itself, with English civil rights preserved in various historical charters and bills. The courts fought long and hard for independence from the sovereign. Parliament itself won the crown in fact although it was worn by the royal figure. The Law Lords of the House of Lords served as the highest appellate court of appeal until 2009. They now constitute the Supreme Court, and may not sit in the House of Lords at the same time, hence in theory making them independent of the legislative body. Only very important or complicated cases came before the Law Lords, and they did not have the express power to declare a law unconstitutional.
Our proposed Constitutional Committee may want to consider whether or not the best place for an appeal on significant constitutional questions is the legislative branch that forged the statute in question for one might think that institution would know best. In any case, pending the reform of the Court, it might suit the chief justice to send a memo to the clerks instructing them to not forward constitutional appeals to him unless the statute or opinion of the lower court challenged appears to be unreasonable, nonsensical, repugnant, impossible or disastrous to effect, or, in another word, absolutely ridiculous, all others to be returned with the advice to pursue the matter with the appropriate legislature.
The power of judicial review in the United States was advanced by John Marshall and successfully employed as a political instrument to regulate the various states, which were in fact called “sovereign” in the practically useless Articles of Confederation. Certain Amendments as to the civil rights were made to the Constitution in order to obtain its approval although some Founders figured everyone should know what their English rights were. It was the Tenth Amendment reserving powers to the states that became more than problematic when the Southern states felt the dominant Northern states were encroaching on their federal constitutional guarantees with tariff and slave bills.
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Almost every fifth grader selected for a TV quiz show knows that Virginia and Kentucky and then South Carolina resolved to nullify what their state legislators felt were unconstitutional federal statutes violating the civil rights of their citizens and thus were destructive of their society or economy. The most offensive of the Alien and Sedition Acts would be repealed, and a compromise was had with South Carolina on the abominable tariff, yet the rebellious spirit persevered, especially over slavery, winding up in secession, the defeat of the Confederate States, and reunification.
The notions of all kinds of reserved states’ rights wound up being determined and winnowed down by the supreme federal institution, the unelected Supreme Court, until there is hardly anything left of a plurality. Today we hear the President and his colleagues say that certain things they do not like such as health care, abortion, and gay marriage, and union contributions law “should be up to the states.” Naturally laws they like should not be up to the states. Wherefore they would stack the court accordingly.
So perhaps a woman could get a divorce and an abortion and marry a woman on the same day in a particular state, or none of the above in another. And one can image the constitutional objections that would naturally be brought to the disparities between the states, especially by the poor woman who could not afford to get to Nevada let alone pay for the services.
It is feared that the president’s selection of a candidate, seen smiling smugly beside his pious, better-than-thou vice president, would roll back liberal advances in judge-made law, to conserve, for example, the primitive principle that men should own women’s bodies. The debate itself may move the candidate, if he is confirmed, to let the precedent stand. If he does not, the voters may revolt against his benefactors in the Senate and White House.
Abortion is always a hot button issue. Unions have lost their allure. Their bargains with government do not seem to help the worker that much, and tend more or less to put labor under tyranny of two governments, which seem to have collaborated to his or her disadvantage in the case of public unions. Recently the organized teachers of several states rebelled against pathetic wages, and they received a pittance for their trouble.
Union dues are a financial burden. Some right-to-work states required non-union members to pay their fair share of the purported benefits of collective bargaining. That was perfectly constitutional for decades according to a Supreme Court precedent recently upheld by 4:4 split due to an unfilled vacancy on the court. Everyone expected the precedent to be overturned with the appointment of an ideologue to that seat, and it was indeed duly overturned as expected by virtue of an informal political quid pro quo furthering the corruption of the court.
Mark Janus had been found willing to buck the system in Illinois and to say he did not like to contribute the cost of his share of the benefits of collective bargaining, so the lawyers had a field day with the constitutional right of free speech. “Under Illinois law,” pronounced Justice Alito on June, 27, 2018, in Mark Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees et al, “public employees are forced to subsidize a union, even if they choose not to join and strongly object to the positions the union takes in collective bargaining and related activities. We conclude that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of non-members by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”
“Matters of substantial public concern” are what the power elite including its press determines them to be, otherwise the cases will not see the light of day. For example, when I asked for an important Florida case to be put online so persons interested do not have to travel to the courthouse to review it, the chief justice of that circuit informed me that the mainstream press determines what is significant enough to publish online. The judiciary obviously does not want the public to be concerned with the everyday behavior of courts that potentially affects it because it might be shocked by what goes regularly transpires. Rights such as free speech are not absolute when free speech is against the public interest. Speech may be restrained when selling three-dimensional programs to print unregistered guns will result in chaos or the anarchy desired by the seller.
Mark Janus could have had recourse to the Illinois legislature, but no, he must have been so outraged at a few hundred dollars of deductions every year from his salary that his lawyers needed to make it a judicial issue and appeal it to the highest court, politically prepared to rehear hear it, an appellate process that might cost more than a million dollars in legal fees for reputedly excellent lawyers if the plaintiff cares enough to pay out of pocket.
Several proposals have been made to get around the loss of funds unions are expected to suffer because non-members like Janus do not want to pay for the benefits whatever they are. I propose that the states offer no benefits negotiated by the unions to non-members, leaving persons like Janus free to speak for himself or through an agent when applying for a job. That process would eventually create a free market price for the functions so fervently desired by economic libertarians.
The Governor, Attorney General, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Hawaii, for example, are not going to proclaim the Janus decision null and void within the boundaries of the state. No, Nullification and Secession do not work well. The oppositional Nullification theory advanced the wheel of Sisyphus from horizon to horizon. The consensus medieval theories are inapplicable today. (3)
But our Constitutional Committee should examine nullification ideology along with the “concurrent majority” reasoning of such Nullifiers of John Calhoun, former Secretary of War, Vice President and Senator, and other Nullifiers such as Robert James Turnbull (‘Brutus’).
Calhoun was raised by a slaveholding dad, and he saw firsthand how decently slaves were treated. He, like the descendants of Hawaii’s plantation owners, claimed that life was much better for plantation slaves than for free workers. (2)
We are well aware of the pathetic condition of workers during the industrial revolution. Unions would be crucial in gaining relief from that virtual slavery. Conservatives blinded by their obsolete tradition and fear for their fortunes would like to roll back some of those gains, and the oligarchic Supreme Court would allow them to bypass the elected legislatures.
Notwithstanding a few employee-owned and democratically managed firms, the place where Americans spend the most of their time is not democratic by any means. We see no whips and chains. There is enough time off for leisure to buy sufficient consumable goods to keep the ball rolling and clog the world with mountains of trash, junk and garbage in the process. Yes, the material life is better, much to the disadvantage of the spiritual life distracted as it is by entertaining commercials, but untold millions of people are wage slaves. I was appalled by what a black union leader who hated Jack Welch with a passion said to me in New York. I identify him as black because blacks have a right to use the denigrating term: he claimed that technological workers are “technological niggers.”
Calhoun’s concurrent majority theory may remind one of the complex geocentric planetary theory replaced by the simple heliocentric theory. Nevertheless, our Constitutional Committee may find some useful ideas therein. Sectionalism will always be as great a problem as individualism. A certain degree of latitude or liberty is required for unity.
The best argument against the Nullifiers was given by President Andrew Jackson, so his famous 1832 Proclamation penned by Edward Livingston should be considered too. He was not altogether fond of the judiciary, and remarked once that, now that the Court had pronounced the law, let it try to enforce it. The foremost Federalist, Alexander Hamilton, advocated judicial review although it was not adopted in the Constitution. He discounted the danger of tyranny that might present, saying a Supreme Court, lacking a sword, would be the weakest institution.
Not so, not now that blind obedience is the custom, and any challenge to judicial review is rebutted with, “Stare Decisis! Res Judicata!”
Wake up! What was once a useful habit is converted into a bad habit and is a disgrace to the nation.
Perhaps the embarrassment that our still great nation presently suffers will expose the ideological religions as inherently idiotic so that the representatives of the people can see, in this instance, that judicial review as we know it is obsolete, and then proceed to draft and pass a judiciary act that will put it in its rightful place.
Until then, the usual means will be employed by the population to get around the opinions of a disgraceful Court. Nullification theory will not do, for it is patently absurd inasmuch as it uses constitutional arguments to destroy the constitution. Simple disobedience to law was more successful than open efforts at nullification. It is impossible to enforce all the laws on the books. A law unenforced is no law.
(1) John Calhoun, unpublished letter dated Sept. 1, 1831:
(2) “Slavery is, instead of an evil, a good—a positive good… I may say with truth that in few countries so much is left to the share of the laborer, and so little exacted from him, or where there is more kind attention paid to him in sickness or infirmities of age. Compare his condition with the tenants of the poor houses in the more civilized portions of Europe—look at the sick, and the old and infirm slave, on one hand, in the midst of his family and friends, under the kind superintending care of his master and mistress, and compare it with the forlorn and wretched condition of the pauper in the poorhouse… I hold then, that there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other” (John C. Calhoun, Feb 6, 1837)
(3) Unions are most powerful in the State of Hawaii. One might expect street protests over the Janus decision given Hawaii’s history and the belief of Native Hawaiians that their islands were stolen and the Kingdom forcefully overthrown by agents of the United States imperialism. Many natives were not very keen on working the invasive sugar plantations that supplanted the strips of land allotted to them under the kingdom. The demand for sugar resulted in the importation of virtual slaves, indentured servants, most of them from the East. Many of them stayed and struggled for many years to obtain civil rights, succeeding in large part because of their organization into unions.
Japanese Americans withstood insults and assaults, deprivation of rights, and even deportation during World War II, and they with their Asian colleagues and like-minded Caucasian notables were instrumental in the creation of the democratic organization for the state, one that the arch-conservative Malcolm Forbes denounced as “socialist.” Republicans are therefore a small minority. There are a few Republican true to republicanism and the democratic aspirations of the Party. Native Hawaiians with at least a rather small quota of native blood left wanted to create a tribe so they could enjoy the benefits of tribes on the Mainland. The majority of natives, however, believed that General Welfare under the Constitution is better than that provided by the Kings and Queens of Hawaii. The legislature was sympathetic to the tribal ideal. The issue was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on constitutional grounds, and that was the end of that.
Hawaii’s government and the public unions and the Democratic Party are one ball of wax in Hawaii. Yet Hawaii suffers like the Mainland. Average wages are not rising. Labor is being bled as usual much to the profit of the big corporations and other heirs to the remnants of the halcyon plantation days. The state like the rest of the nation is becoming more and more top heavy as the days pass.
Conservatives have good reason fear for their fortunes. Conservatism may be defined in terms of a general defense of social and economic inequality, with lip service given to free trade and competition, rather than an effort to uphold traditional institutions. Conservatism is an attempt then to maintain and augment power of the ruling elite by all means available including the resort to war in which the conservative leaders would rather not risk their lives in personal combat.
The underlying thesis of the Federalist or nationalist conservatives is obsolete today. It upholds and expands the contradictory vestiges of medieval tradition. It was authoritarian, centralized, a constitutional monarchy, the executive being limited by court of princes and republican estate. It placed emphasis on human imperfection, on Hobbes more than on Locke. It celebrated the organic society hierarchically organized with one head, the Supreme Court, supported by the propertied class.
The future of Hawaii as a cultural and financial treasure depends on the maintenance of the Hawaiian culture. We see sporadic demonstrations and memorials to the old kingdom from time to time, but no demonstration. The truth of the matter is that the natives are thoroughly assimilated. Not only they but the haoles (white invaders) may have to move to the Mainland to support themselves and their families.
And with Janus there is no vehement protest in Hawaii. A libertarian nativist relocated from the Heart of America says there may not be much of an impact because unions will be forced to become more productive to survive. That might as well be said of many small business entities facing mammoth competition from the big corporations.
A member of the old haole elite who is intimate with some of the evils of the public unions rejoices on his gentleman’s estate that the Constitutional right to free speech has been upheld by the Supreme Court. He thinks it is sad that good teachers leave the state because of the low pay, but he suggests no solution whatsoever. The Supreme Court legislated the supreme law of the land, and that is that.
(4) President Jackson’s Proclamation