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Justice Kennedy’s Meaningless Rhetoric

Justice Anthony Kennedy was in Sacramento last week for the dedication of a library in his honor at the state capitol and he gave the obligatory, and entirely superficial, nod to judicial restraint and the importance of democratic processes. CBS News reports:

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said Wednesday that congressional lawmakers need to maintain the nation’s balance of power by being able to compromise, expressing concerns that the high court is increasingly the venue for deciding politically charged issues such as gay marriage, health care and immigration.

Kennedy, a former Sacramento law school professor, was asked by reporters whether he thought the court was deciding too many issues that can be decided by Congress.

“I think it’s a serious problem. A democracy should not be dependent for its major decisions on what nine unelected people from a narrow legal background have to say,” Kennedy said. “And I think it’s of tremendous importance for our political system to show the rest of the world — and we have to show ourselves first — that democracy works because we can reach agreement on a principle basis.”

And yet he gladly overturns laws passed by elected legislatures when he disagrees with them. In fact, he wrote the ruling in Citizens United that overturned a law by going far beyond what even the plaintiffs asked the court to do. And he was happy to vote to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Any time you hear a Supreme Court justice blather on about judicial restraint, you can be pretty sure they’re full of shit. All they really mean is “we should respect the decisions of the legislature in cases where we should respect the decisions of the legislature.” And Kennedy, in particular, is the second most likely justice to overturn a democratically passed law (only Thomas has done so more often).

Comments

  1. baal says

    “congressional lawmakers need to maintain the nation’s balance of power by being able to compromise”

    And yet here we are constantly railing about the (D) waffling time and time again. I do see “the (R) caved” headlines on TPM and other venues from time to time but they are noted in their rarity. We’re impressed when we see a (D) stand up and say, wow hey! a (D) grew a spine. So i find myself in agreement with Kennedy, it’s a both sides thing.

  2. eric says

    whether he thought the court was deciding too many issues that can be decided by Congress.

    The question hardly even makes sense when the court is taking 1% of the cases appealed to them while Congress can’t even pass a yearly budget. It appears the system has an immense, multi-branch-spanning backlog of things Congress can decide, in principle, but doesn’t decide in practice. At least not on any sort of timely basis.

    Thus one role of the modern supreme court appears to be fixing laws that Congress would never get around to fixing even if they wanted to, because they spent the entire last session arguing about whether the New Haverbrook monorail should get $10 million or $20 million without reaching a conclusion.

    Its sort of like asking whether a 100-hour-a-week lawyer can decide to coach his daughter’s soccer league. He could, yes. But he won’t, so someone else has to do it.

  3. garnetstar says

    I thought that that was what the courts were for, deciding on rights. Congress makes laws and the courts decide on their constitionality, a deciding factor being what rights are due to citizens.

    If you disagree, Justice Kennedy, why not just pack up and go home? Let’s see how many “politically charged” issues Congress can settle without you all.

  4. Ichthyic says

    And yet here we are constantly railing about the (D) waffling time and time again

    so, that whole sequester thing happened because dems were waffling…

    uh huh.

  5. lancifer says

    One man’s “judicial activism” is another man’s protection of Constitutional rights.

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