I read Red Families v. Blue Families the other day, and a reference to the U.S. Supreme Court case from 2006, Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of New England, made me stop (and reread the quote several times). This post is not about the substance of the law in question, or even the totality of the ruling itself (which I haven’t read in its entirety). I’ve read enough to know that this quote isn’t pulled out of context, though, and I’m alarmed.
It’s the first Monday in October, when the U.S. Supreme Court comes back into session, and, well, I think that maybe a little bit of outrage is just what we need today.
The ruling includes the finding that the Court should “try not to nullify more of a legislature’s work than is necessary, for we know that ‘[a] ruling of unconstitutionality frustrates the intent of the elected representatives of the people.”
And, while that may sound reasonable (elected officials representing the will of the people), here’s the problem:
Rulings of unconstitutionality, frustrating or not, are WHAT THE SUPREME COURT IS SUPPOSED TO DO.
As in, the U.S. Constitution and the separation of powers and the intention of the Framers, and all that?
And that’s why this language bothers me so much, and why I think it should bother us all: sure, there are times when I don’t like Supreme Court decisions, and I don’t like the fact that the courts are not as accountable to “the people” as the legislative or executive branches, but there’s a tremendous comfort in knowing that the Constitution serves as the foundation of our system of laws, like it or not.
We can’t afford to sacrifice that, not for expediency, not for popular sovereignty, not even to avoid great frustration.
Maybe we need a new litmus test for members of the judiciary: Will you really do your job? Even if it makes people upset sometimes? Because that’s what our government depends on.