Friday, July 6, 2012

Supreme justice

Fish is brain food. At least that's my sincere hope. Jet lag shrinks my brain to a dot. Fish and fruit are my remedy. So here's this morning's breakfast--a huge, huge piece of trout (Wall Street Journal for scale). Off-screen is the grapefruit awaiting dismemberment.

I read the entire newspaper today, cover to cover, all sections. I'm trying to reorient myself to this side of the Atlantic. Except, of course, lots of the news was about the side of the Atlantic I've just left: Wimbledon, Barclay's and the LIBOR-manipulation scandal, Assange trying to take refuge in the UK Ecuadorian embassy to avoid deportation, and so on.

One thing I had hoped to read about, but of course is old news already, is the Supreme Court's decision regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), that is, the health-care law.

I am thrilled about this. Not just with the 5-4 result--which I'd hoped for*--but with Chief Justice Roberts' decision.

The story I tell myself about the ACA decision--because I'm not a legal expert, not even that competent, really, when it comes to discussing the US political system, but I am a storyteller--is that Chief Justice John G. Roberts could no longer bear to watch the people's trust in one of the most important branches of the US government fail. That, as Chief Justice, he felt obliged to do something. For the people's trust was failing--in no small part because of the decision in January 2010 that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections. That decision, which ushered in the era of super-PACs and overruled two precendents, was widely regarded as sharply doctrinaire--the opposite of the Court's supposed impartiality.

The Supreme Court has no money and no armies. The only reason it has any kind of power at all is that we all believe it does. The minute we stop believing in its essential impartiality is the minute the system breaks. Roberts is smart enough and responsible enough to know this. He stepped in with a clever decision to uphold the perception of the Court as being above the political fray.
"Those decisions are entrusted to our nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them," Roberts said. "It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices." (from The Washington Post)
I admire him for this.

And now I'm very, very curious about what decision the court will make regarding the constitutionality of DOMA. I had hoped for a 5-4 decision in favour of throwing DOMA on the scrap heap. Now I've got my fingers crossed for 6-3, which would be a magnificent result.

Stay tuned.

* Though I'd imagined it would be Kennedy who'd be the swing voter--which in retrospect makes me feel like an idiot. Oh, well. Told you I'm not exactly an expert on this stuff.
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