I 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.