Supreme Court Justices – Liberal, Conservative, or Realist?

Posted on April 8th, 2007 in Politics by EngineerBoy

Supreme CourtI just read an article where the voting records of Supreme Court Justices were analyzed to determine if justices tended to stick to their leanings at the time of appointment (Liberal, Centrist, Conservative) or if they strayed over time. To the surprise of the investigators, the justices tended to drift over time, and sometimes even oscillated between positions from ruling to ruling.

I find this to be not only not surprising, but also dramatically refreshing. Interpreting the law of the land is not the milieu for rigid dogma, it is the place for thoughtful consideration of all sides of an argument. And, if one is to thoughtfully consider all facets of every argument, it becomes increasingly more difficult to stick to preconceived notions of right and wrong, of liberal versus conservative, of Republican versus Democrat.

If you then remove the external motivations of re-election/re-appointment or personal enrichment and replace them with the fact that justices are evaluated almost exclusively by the backward lense of history, and that the railings and wailings of any pundits du jour have absolutely no effect on the life or career of a justice, we find (to me simplistically) that over time justices tend to actually try to do what is right and just.

Now, we all have differing opinions on what is right and just – that’s why there are nine justices. And I certainly don’t agree with all decisions by the Court, however, if/when I take the time to actually read the opinions I find that the rulings, while not what I would have decided, are (with exceedingly rare exception) based on law, logic, and justice.

What I find most surprising is when self-labelled Conservative or Liberal talking-heads bemoan the fact that one Justice or the other “betrayed” their ideology by voting in a certain way in a certain case which said talking-head is holding up as a rallying flag for “the cause”. The judges are then labelled as “activist”, which in the US political arena is apparently defined as “making decisions with which I do not agree”.

Well, guess what? That’s *exactly* how it’s supposed to work. Supreme Court Justices are *supposed* to be free from the political pressures of re-election or re-appointment, specifically to allow them to practice rationality instead of dogmatism. And the pundits and talking heads flail about in histrionic rage which they direct at the justices, when instead they should direct at their own stupidity for not understanding the basic construct of the US government.

Suck it, true believers, the system works.

2 Responses to 'Supreme Court Justices – Liberal, Conservative, or Realist?'

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  1. Chuck said,

    on April 9th, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Pretty good article. The founding fathers were pretty smart. Unfortunately, people don’t study history, or read the actual documents they wrote, including letters to friends. If they did, they would find that the values they held were, indeed, very conservative. The vast majority of the signers of the declaration of Independence were conservative Christians. Only those who read the actual original writings of these men would know this. I would encourage you to do so. Thanks for your time.

  2. Maverick said,

    on April 20th, 2010 at 10:46 am

    this is ridiculous. i think its all a scam. THEY ARE REALISTS WHO DONT CARE ABOUT THE ECONOMY! aaaaahhhhh!!!!!

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