From this morning’s Jolt, a few thoughts on why the Supreme Court seems so distant and alien to so much of the citizenry:
His Name Hasn’t Been Mentioned, But Judge Wapner Is Still Alive, People
The Supreme Court has never been my preferred beat in Washington; I got drafted into covering the Sotomayor hearings last year when the rest of NR was on a cruise.
From where I sit, the modern Supreme Court has become way too wrapped up in its mystique and grandeur and inscrutability; it feels like every year or so, some intensely divisive political issue comes before nine folks, some of whom are relatively well-known (Scalia, Ginsburg) and some of whom are obscure (quick, pick Anthony Kennedy or Stephen Breyer out of a police lineup!) and they decide for us, whether we trust their good sense or not. They offer a lengthy explanation, but if you don’t have a law degree, large swaths of it are indecipherable. Half of us end up infuriated, and half of us rejoice. I don’t know about you, but even when my side wins, I don’t feel that much better; we recently learned that four out of nine thought Washington D.C.’s complete ban on civilian ownership of firearms of all kinds didn’t violate the Second Amendment; these are almost certainly the same four who find lap dances to be a constitutionally-protected form of expression under the First Amendment.
I’m a layman, not a lawyer, and the guys at Bench Memos can help make sense of the whole thing. But our whole Supreme Court process seems a bit like that early sequence with the Ephors in the movie 300: You’ve got some major national problem that needs to be resolved, and you have to go through this ridiculously arduous process just to climb up to a tall-columned chamber of a high court, where an odd-number of old, crochety guys in robes supposedly hear you out, but they act like the problem doesn’t affect them, too. Almost every time, they tell you what you don’t want to hear, and the reasoning sometimes might as well be, ‘because the Oracle/Emanating Penumbra says so.’ So you end up going home and not getting any sleep while your spouse asks you what a free man would do. If our system of government must involve a mysterious high authority whose word is final and whose decision-making is enigmatic, I’d prefer that we at least get the visual of a nubile nymph mesmerizingly writhing as the interpretation of the proper legal course of action. (Wait a minute, maybe those lap dances do tie into the First Amendment after all.)