Mixed bag from the SCOTUS today

Carla Axtman

Seems like the internets are a-buzz this morning with the US Supreme Court's decision overturning most of Arizona's immigration law and striking down Montana's challenge to the Citizens United ruling.

Law and legal precedent are not my areas, so I'll leave the analysis to those who are experts. What I did find striking however was Justice Antonin Scalia's full on tempter tantrum at the court's decision on the Arizona case:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia suggested Monday that the Framers of the Constitution would have “rushed to the exits” if presented with the idea behind President Barack Obama’s recent decision not to enforce certain immigration laws.

The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down most of the key provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law “boggles the mind” in light of the Obama policy shift, Scalia added.

Speaking in dissent of most of the court’s rulings on Arizona’s immigration law, Scalia took a clear swipe in his remarks at the Obama administration’s new policy ending deportations of many young adults brought into the country illegally — which was not part of the Arizona case.

Shorter Scalia: if the framers knew that immigration wasn't controlled by the states, they'd have scrapped the whole U-S of A idea. And Obama sucks.

On the Montana ruling, the Court said today that even in the face years of corruption in the state due to corporate money in politics, the Citizens United ruling still prevails.

Odd how Scalia is all twisted up about state sovereignty for Arizona, but not so much for Montana.

  • (Show?)

    Scalia is a clear example of what his "strick constructionists" lament, the attempted imposition of a radical political agenda through the aegis of the Supreme Court. State sovereignty be damned. One agenda in MT and another in AZ. He was so over-the-top today in his violation of separation of powers, and so politically un-astute in his lanugage and behavior that one wonders if some geriatric dementia is not progressing in a faltering brain. He should be asked to undergo neuropsych assessment. His little stunt actually harmed his GOP candidate and friends.

  • (Show?)

    Scalia and Thomas have made clear that they do not have a judicial philosophy, only a political one.

  • (Show?)

    Yet another illustration from the 76-year-old Scalia of why we need a mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court justices.

  • (Show?)

    I understand that it's not easy to love thy enemy, or even respect thy enemy, but it's simply not accurate to describe Scalia as demented, wholly political, or lacking a consistent judicial philosophy. Legal scholars may disagree with his philosophy, but my impression is that Scalia is widely admired for his wit, writing style, and fierce commitment to originalism.

    As to Tim's comment, I can only ask what age? 75? This would have required Douglas to retire under Nixon, Brennan and Marshall to retire under Reagan, Kennedy and Ginsburg under Bush ...

    Is that really what you are wishing for?

    • (Show?)

      Paul,Scalia uses originalism until he doesn't. Will he argue that the founders were opposed to the use of mandatory insurance when they did just that for maritime employees?

      • (Show?)

        John, maritime ships were clearly engaged in interstate commerce and thus could be required to buy insutance. The whole issue of the individual mandate is whether just living in the U.S. constitutes interstate commerce.

        By the way, you notice no one is challenging the constitutionality of the requirement under Obamacare for employers with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance.

        • (Show?)

          My point is that Scalia says he is for originalism except when it works against him. You can make a case that health care does not involve interstate commerce (I strongly disagree), but that is not the issue of whether the founders believed the government could force people to buy insurance. They could and did. Then the question becomes what is the definition of interstate commerce. Modern medicine clearly requires interstate commerce.

          But lets take another case. Do you really believe that the founders would claim that corporations had all the same rights as individuals? Jefferson would go crazy with that idea and it clearly is no where in the constitution.

          • (Show?)

            John, the issue is not whether the government can force people to buy insurance. That's the distinction between Romneycare and Obamacare; no one has suggested it is unconstitutional for a state government to require people to buy health insurance.

            The question is whether the federal government can require individuals to buy insurance based on the commerce clause. And that's why requiring a business clearly involved in interstate (or foreign) commerce to buy insurance is different than requiring an individual to buy insurance.

            As to the rights of corporations, can you cite a case where any of founders said corporations don't have the same rights as individuals? Or, more accurately, where the founders said that people give up their rights when they choose to act through a corporation or other business entity.

            • (Show?)

              Jack, I'm interested in your thoughts on corporate personhood. After reading Thom Hartman's "Unequal Protection" many years back, I found myself mostly in agreement that corporations shouldn't have the same rights as individuals. Coming from that background, I find it to be strange that you are asking for quotes from the founders where they talk about the issue. If the notion of corporate personhood had seemed utterly ridiculous to them, would they even have mentioned it? That having been said, corporate rights have expanded (and contracted, but overall more expansion than contraction) since those times--it's a pretty clear case. In that, and in other realms both for better and for worse, I think it can be strongly argued that the law has deviated in many ways from founding principles. Also, that having been said, I'm wondering if you think that the founders (being quite familiar with the behavior of East India Company) specifically DID think that corporations should have the same rights as individuals. Your thoughts, please?

    • (Show?)

      Paul, I don't claim that Scalia is demented or senile. However, it is a fact that everyone's mental flexibility declines with age. We get "set in our ways" (as I'm learning at age 66) and I don't think that makes for the best decisions.

      Moreover, Supreme Court justices are the closest things to monarchs within our constitution. They can ascend to office at any age -- it would be perfectly constitutional for the president to appoint and the Senate to confirm a 12-year-old kid as Justice -- and like kings and queens, they serve until they die, unless they themselves make the decision to retire.

      And they are nearly absolute in their power. Only impeachment, which is nearly impossible to achieve, and the constitution, which they interpret for themselves, stand between the justices and absolute monarchy.

      So, yes, liberal or conservative, brilliant or dumb as a post, the Supreme Court justices need some limits on their tenure.

    • (Show?)

      Scalia is a disgrace. He attends fundraisers for the right wing organizations opposing the ACA, spitting on any pretense of judicial temperament, neutrality, or objectivity. He makes public speeches that are partisan and biting in their attacks on political opponents. He has even on one occasion publicly made obscene gestures and in Italian told people demonstrating to " va fa in culo" a version of" go get f---ked." His performance today of using the court as a forum for an incoherent rant against the President was over the top and certainly beyond any standard of judicial temperament or court decorum, or separation of powers. His decisions today of railing in favor of state's rights and then stomping on them in favor of the rights of corporations as if they were persons in the name of free speech, and free speech as if money is the same as speech, is not only inconsistent but also unprincipled. He speaks about a standard of upholding precedent and then tosses it with easy abandon. Scalia is a disgrace to the judiciary, for his extreme partisanship, for his disrespect for the presidency, for his arrogance in using the court to advance radical political aims, and his personal boorishness. And with age it is getting worse.

      He should receive a neuropsych evaluation as should all justices past a certain age. And I agree that justices should not be treated like monarchs with indefinite terms, hiding behind a quasi royal deference that they are not worthy of, and destroying the legitimacy of an institution that our democracy needs.

    • (Show?)

      "My impression is that Scalia is widely admired for his wit, writing style, and fierce commitment to originalism."

      I don't know who started this about Scalia, but is the most often-repeated piece of nonsense I hear. It usually comes in the form of, "I don't agree with Scalia on many things, but I do have to recognize his wit and writing ability." Mr. Gronke inexplicably added "fierce commitment to originalism" which I would agree with except for those instances when he is not.

      I wonder how many of the people who praise Scalia for his wit or his writing have actually read any of his opinions, or more enlightening, his dissents. I have read many of his opinions and don't find them to be at all witty or thought-provoking. What stands out about his opinions is the level of disprespect he shows his peers on the bench. Scalia is alone in his willingness to belittle and mock his peers when they disagree with him. It is unprofessional, unneccessary, and beneath the Court.

      People are criticizing Scalia for taking seemingly inconsistent positions in the Arizona and Montana cases. That's nothing! He often takes completely differing positions in the same case without ever recognizing or reconciling those differences. Great intellect, indeed.

      Scalia is a political hack short and simple. He gets recognition because he is full of personality in a place that is usually quite short in that department (which many consider a good thing). But that abundance of personality should not be mistaken for wit, intellect, or writing ability. Just my two cents.

  • (Show?)

    A more viable approach than a mandatory retirement age may be ending the lifetime tenure of U.S. Supreme court judges.

    When he worked for the Reagon Department of Justice, now-Chief Justice John Roberts, wrote a memo supportive of this idea and suggested one 15 year term.

    Others suggest an 18 year term.

    Just another thought on a way to set some reasonable limits on the clout of members of the federal judiciary.

    • (Show?)

      I'd be okay with a lifetime tenure for federal district and circuit court judges. Perhaps the Supreme Court should be made up of judges tapped from the various federal Circuit Courts. Individual Circuit judges could be temporarily elevated to a single 12-year or 15-year term on the Supreme Court, and then return to the Court of Appeals for the rest of their lives. That would provide them with the political independence guaranteed by lifetime tenure, while minimizing the ability of any president to pack the court with ideologues that may serve for decades.

      In addition, if Supreme Court judges were picked (by law or by tradition) from circuit court judges with at least a decade of written federal appellate decisions behind them, Congress would have some yardstick of how they'd interpret the law once serving at the top.

      Obviously, that would take a constitutional amendment. But I'm guessing a lot of state legislatures would approve it if was able to get through Congress.

  • (Show?)

    Does anyone who isn't demented or crazy really believe that the confederate era idea of state sovereignty as cited by Scalia in his dissenting opinion? Scalia brings up a fantasy doctrine where states are entitled to defend their own international borders and make up their own laws of enforcement independently of the Federal government. Yet those same "sovereign states" aren't able to have their own campaign finance laws. And in his rant, which was not joined by any other judge he brings in issues that aren't even pertinent to the case. Scalia has become unhinged and unethical, and should not be serving on the highest court of the land.

  • (Show?)

    E.J.Dionne agrees that Scalia is a disgrace and should resign: Today's WaPo http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ej-dionne-jr-justice-scalia-should-resign/2012/06/27/gJQApkO06V_story.html

connect with blueoregon