Furor resulting from leak raises questions regarding court

Jim Redwine

Liberals are upset that the leak from the U.S. Supreme Court may signal that the case of Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), may be overturned or, as is more likely, modified. Conservatives are upset there was a leak from the Supreme Court that may allow public pressure from Liberals to influence the Court to not modify Roe’s holdings.

Neither Roe v. Wade nor the case that followed it, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), is before the Supreme Court for decision. They could be referred to and overturned or reaffirmed by the court within its decision of the pending case of Dobbs v. Jackson, No. 19-1392 that will be decided this year. As there has not yet been an official decision in Dobbs, it does not have an official public citation.

Liberals celebrate the leak and abhor the substance of the draft opinion authored by conservative justice Samuel Alito. Conservatives celebrate the preliminary opinion and abhor the leak. Both Liberals and Conservatives find reasons to attack the institution of the Third Branch of our democracy as they clamor for it to be fundamentally changed. Liberals want to “pack” the Court so as to dilute its current conservative majority. Conservatives want a vigorous investigation into the leak with the hope the public will be outraged if some left-leaning leaker is identified as the culprit.

I agree with Shakespeare’s character, Mercutio, in Act III, scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet when his imminent death results due to an irrational feud between the families of the lovers:

“A plague on both your houses!”

However, if we are to be constantly accosted by railings of both Liberals and Conservatives about the need for modifications in the United States Supreme Court, let us consider making some constructive changes. After all, no rational American wants to do away with the court. We all know one of the main reasons our country has outlived every other constitutional democracy on earth is our equally competing three branches of government. We must support the maintenance of all three, including the Judicial Branch.

When it comes to the Judicial Branch, political commentators often assert it is non-political and must remain so. They are correct if they mean the actual decisions of the court. No judge should allow political influence to affect his or her decision. But when it comes to maintaining the public’s confidence in the non-political basis of a judge’s decision, it is the processes of judicial selection and retention that are most important.

One reason the public believes the members of the Supreme Court are politically motivated is because the public has no influence on how the justices get their lifetime jobs nor any realistic way to remove them. Presidents are elected every four years with the possibility of only one more four-year term. Representatives are elected every two years and Senators are elected every six years. The public has a right to remove them. Supreme Court justices are nominated by one person, the President, as the President sees fit. The public’s influence is greatly attenuated, in fact, virtually non-existent.

At a minimum, the public should have the assurance that many of the most vital issues of their lives will not be at the mercy of the same five-member majority of the Supreme Court for an unknown period. Perhaps our current national furor could be a catalyst to, at least, set term limits for the Supreme Court justices.

A ten-year term is what I suggest but the public, through its federal Legislature, should decide such issues. It is fair and in our own best interest in getting well-qualified justices who are willing to serve, to grant the retired justices generous life-time pensions once their term is up. But in return, the retired justices would agree to neither seek nor accept another judicial position ever again.

The possibility of term limits for the Supreme Court might help assuage the current calls by Liberals and Conservatives to radically control what must remain one of our three independent branches of government. Term limits is a better solution than a continuing loss of public confidence in and, perhaps, a loss of independence for, our Supreme Court. In other words, we do not want to make the same types of mistakes as did Romeo and Juliet in their final Act. We do not need to continue on our road toward possible suicide for our democracy.

p.s. Gentle Reader, Peg and I have two upcoming book signings for our new historical novel, Unanimous for Murder, that is a sequel to JUDGE LYNCH!. The first is May 17, 2022 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Osage County Historical Society Museum at 700 Lynn Avenue in Pawhuska,