FROM THE CHAIRMAN: Observations on court decisions, summer 2013
Last year, it was the Supreme Court decision to uphold Obamacare. This year, the Supreme “Nine” rendered several decisions the last week of June. While both liberals and conservatives were happy with one decision or another, it is interesting to review them to try to find some “similarity” among the decisions. Some decisions were typical – liberals on one side, conservatives on the other, and Kennedy being the decisive vote. Yet one ruling had the majority of the court with both factions together!
First, in Shelby County v Holder, Chief Justice Roberts rendered a decision, joined by his conservative brethren and Justice Kennedy, declaring the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional. The VRA had been enacted to address racial discrimination in voting, most prevalent in the southern states during the 100 years following the Civil War. It is of note that this law, like the Civil Rights Act from the 1960s, was passed only with the help of Republicans. Many Democratic congressmen failed to support President Johnson in his attempt to eliminate the continued racism throughout the nation (if only history were taught based on facts, rather than as state-supported propaganda since the mid-60s).
The VRA was drafted to expire after five years, but was reauthorized several times; while it was a national law, the formula it adopted to address the ills of racism continued unaltered, operating on forty-plus year old tests, thereby applying inconsistently to states and areas in the country. While the Court did not overturn the VRA, it found that antiquated formula was unconstitutional; the requirement to have states petition the federal government for laws they could enact but for the VRA (like voter ID laws) is no longer acceptable, given the progress made in the last 50 years. While the extraordinary steps in the VRA were reasonable to address the problems still rampant in the 1960s, such circumstances are no longer present. As expected, the liberals on the bench dissented, giving fodder for the socialists in the media to harangue about the racist results to follow.
While many conservatives cheered that decision, the next day two decisions were issued that caused the consternation of the same group. In US v Windsor, the Supreme Court held that certain definitions in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) were unconstitutional. Ms. Windsor married Ms. Spyer in Canada in 2007, and New York recognized that marriage; however, when Spyer died and left her estate to Windsor, the federal government would not allow the marital exemption for estate taxes, as DOMA defined marriage to exclude same-sex partners. Windsor paid the extra taxes and then sued to obtain a refund, after the IRS denied her request for a refund. The Obama Administration chose not to continue defending the suit, and a legal group affiliated with the US House intervened. The trial court and appellate found the same-sex prohibition as to marriage unconstitutional – and the Supremes agreed.
While I, like many other conservatives, are disappointed in the results as it applies to traditional marriages, it is important to read the decision for what it is. Individual states passed legislation to address these marriages – some supporting heterosexual marriages, others against such traditional beliefs. The Court’s decision was less about defining marriage throughout the nation – and more about respecting the rights of individual states to make determinations for its citizens. The Court could have refused the case (since the Administration begged off), but chose to exercise its authority for both Windsor and others similarly situated. In the end, the Court held both due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution required Kennedy’s decision, joined by the four liberals. The solid conservatives on the bench filed various dissenting opinions, Roberts noting federalism (states’ rights) is consistent with the holding and Scalia noting that (as happens with many courts taken over by liberal social-engineers) the court is HUNGRY to issue a decision over which the jurisdiction is questionable just to render its patriarchical opinion on gay marriage (by necessity, attempting to re-defined marriage).
A few hours later, the liberals in our society rejoiced again with the Court’s decision in Hollingsworth v Perry, the Prop 8 in California sent up from the Left ..oops, Ninth.. Circuit. The California Supreme Court held barring same-sex “marriage” was unconstitutional, voters in the state passed Proposition 8, amending the state constitution to define marriage as a heterosexual union. Gay and lesbian couples sued, claiming due process and equal protection violations under the US Constitution. As with Windsor, the proper parties (the state administration – liberal nuts like in DC) refused to defend the suit, and the trial court allowed intervention by those who supported Prop 8 to defend the suit. Trial court (no surprise from judges in CA) found the amendment unconstitutional – and again, the administration did nothing, so the interveners appealed. The Ninth Circuit sought instruction from the California Supreme Court, which held the interveners could appeal, heard the case and upheld the trial court.
The Supreme Court essentially stated ALL the judges in California were WRONG, but not on the important issue; instead, it concluded the interveners did NOT have the right to defend the amendment when the state officials refused to do so. In fact, the Court made it clear that, no matter what a state decides about its residents and standing to sue, when suit is in FEDERAL court, it is federal law that controls, not state decisions – even from the state Supreme Court. Curiously, in this decision the Court was quite willing to pass an opinion due to standing (in an opinion written by the Chief Justice) – contrary to the Windsor case, where the Court could have avoided jurisdiction but WANTED to weigh in on same-sex marriage.
EACH of these decisions was a 5-4 decision. While the first two emphasized how important Anthony Kennedy is on this Court (he was the swing vote on each), on the Prop 8 decision Roberts was joined by Scalia and three of the four liberals! Kennedy led the dissent on that case, joined by the other two conservatives and … Sotomayor. Each decision demonstrated an expected recognition of certain important legal principles, such as the reservation of rights to the states and citizens (10th Amendment), the application of due process (despite the outcome of such a decision) and the governance of federal law applied in federal cases on issues like standing. The take-away, however, is that you cannot rely on liberals in government to abide by their duties, whether proactive or reactive responsibilities. This results in court intervention that exceeds its duties to become its own legislative branch (Windsor) only when enough liberals support action — otherwise, like Prop 8, the court will be judicious in its action.
Not to be outdone, the George Zimmerman case wrapped up a few weeks after these decisions and there was no news after July 4th in America (based on mainstream media) other than that case. The situation resulting in this case is sad, no matter your race, creed, political position or age. The death of anyone in such a situation is tragic, as are the deaths that have occurred here in Winnebago County in the first weeks of July! Initially, considering the “stand your ground” law in Florida, I was perplexed with the decision to charge Zimmerman – but I was equally perplexed with the decision for the defendant not to take the stand, given the absence of any other witnesses to the actual event and the conflicting testimony concerning the 911 call. When the judge added manslaughter as an option (despite the State not charging it), I wondered whether that would be the “compromise” by the jury.
In the end, the jury viewed the facts most favorably to Zimmerman (that “beyond a reasonable doubt” thing) and acquitted him. I commend the reported calls from the parents of Martin for calm and NO violence – and shake my head at the reports of mob violence and even separate incidents resulting from the verdict. More troubling are the apologists, in both local and national media and officials, who seem to assess little to no responsibility for the result to Martin; this is particularly true for those lamenting how this could happen to “a child”. Having seen the pictures of Zimmerman, the fight did not involve a child, but someone of somewhat equal stature to Zimmerman and who was acting like (and would have been charged as) an adult.