Thursday, April 26, 2012

Courtly Politics

The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in the Arizona immigration case. We won’t know the outcome until June, probably, but watchers seemed pretty sure that Arizona will win.

I long ago gave up trying to guess which way the Court would rule, especially now that it’s basically a political operation. It may sound cynical to say that the Court takes party politics into mind with their rulings, but let’s get real: they always have. It may not be as blatant as Bush v. Gore, and it may not apply to every case, but it’s in the mix, just as it has been since long before Brown v. Board of Education or even Plessy v. Ferguson.

As the saying goes, we are a nation of laws, not of men. But men and women make the laws, men and women interpret the laws, and they’ll rule according to both the law and which party appointed or elected them. It’s a fact of life, and I put the legend of judicial neutrality right up there with the one about the flying reindeer at Christmas.

In this particular case, the Court might rule in favor of the Obama administration just to take immigration off the table for the election, trumping the merits of the arguments of states’ rights versus the Constitution’s granting of power to control the borders solely to the federal government. But if the Court rules in favor of the Arizona law under the rubric of states’ rights, then why can’t it rule in favor of state-sponsored segregation in order to control education, or, on the other hand, in favor of California’s legalization of medical marijuana?

Lady Justice may be wearing a blindfold, but she’s not wearing earplugs.

(Charlie Pierce seems to share my skepticism.)