Daley’s View from Washington: The Radical Supreme Court

Bill Daley is the Federal Issues Policy Director at The Alliance for a Just Society.

Anyone who still considers the Supreme Court to be a neutral arbiter of legal matters should take a peek at a decision that they rendered last Thursday.

The pro corporation court ruled on a California case concerning whether SEIU had properly informed its members of its use of dues money for political donations. The law the court was working with provides members a right to opt out of political donations. The Court decided to go well beyond the issue and ruled that the Constitution requires union members to opt in by an affirmative act.

This new law was not written in any legislature.

We get an alarming picture when we place this decision side by side with the case that made corporations into people with unlimited rights to make anonymous political donations. So the unions now have to get a positive opt in for their donations, but the corporations can pour billions into the elections without ever saying where it came from.

We should not be too surprised.

Not too many years ago we were hearing a chorus of outcries from the right wing about activist judge trying to re-mold the U.S. Constitution. Those voices have been remarkably quiet over the last decade, even though we now have one of the most radically activist Courts in our history.

Let’s face it: the current crop of justices shatter the traditional view that the Supreme Court sits as a neutral interpreter of the law based on the highest consideration of principle and constitutional tradition. They are political radicals camouflaging their extreme ideology behind the risen dais and the courtroom robe.

This is virtually the same court that intervened in Florida State election law and awarded the Presidency to George Bush. Add the Lilly Ledbetter Case that overturned a Congressional Act preventing wage discrimination against women. Toss in rulings permitting corporations to require their customers to submit consumer complaints to arbitration, other anti-union rulings, and other routine judicial activism. The biggie, of course, is the departure from over a century of law to declare that corporations are people imbued with freedom of speech and the right to make unlimited and anonymous political contributions – the Citizen’s United decision.

So do not be surprised to see one of the most radical courts in our history do some really surprising things in the next few days. These are not giant judicial minds pondering the eternal verities.

We approach two Supreme Court Decisions of historic importance – the Arizona racial profiling case and the case challenging the Affordable Care Act. When assessing how to respond to these decisions, it is important to follow the old cliché – consider the source.


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