In the past 30 years, the conservatives have transformed our court system into a tool of corporate power, and a force for repression nationwide. The process was relatively simple: demand a litmus test for the approval of all judges who are pending appointment. Refuse to allow any candidate to be approved who does not meet the entire litmus test. By manipulating a compliant media into an arm of the right’s rhetoric, conservatives have been able to block the appointment of virtually every qualified judge appointed by any entity other than the Republican Party.
Over the last three decades, Republicans have put the appointment of conservative judges at the top of their agenda, and controlling the White House 20 of the last 30 years has allowed them to carry out their plan. By the time George W. Bush left office, 60.2 percent of the federal judges, including two-thirds of the Supreme Court, had been appointed by Republican presidents. The younger Bush appointed nearly 40 percent of all federal judges.
WHAT IS THE LITMIS TEST?
To pass muster, the potential judges must be:
- anti-gay rights;
- pro death penalty;
- against any conceivable regulatory control over corporations;
- in support of every war-related corporate boondoggle envisioned by the military-industrial complex;
- anti-welfare or social services or providing health related assistance to any American;
- anti- affirmative action;
- willing to imprison juveniles for the rest of their lives; and,
- in support of all police agencies, regardless of how violent or corrupt they are, and insist upon imprisonment for decades for the broadest range of anti-social conduct imaginable.
They also must not be “judicial activists” – only Republicans are allowed to pursue their favorite right-wing causes. Transgressing any of the factors listed above is enough for Republicans to go after any judicial nominee.
This test is a difficult one to pass. Alito, Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and a handful of bigots pass that test, but not many others even come close. By focusing on a violation of any of those issues, the conservatives are able to deny appointment to anyone who falls within the mainstream of American thought.
There are diverse opinions on each and every issue raised by the litmus test; yet, hardly anyone is such a sycophant to corporate wealth, state police and military power, and the myriad of social concerns regarding sexuality, death, abortion, etc., that they fall within the minuscule number of those demanded by the Tea and Republican Parties’ mentality. It is this toxic combination of irresponsible and heartless demands that has destroyed any semblance of justice in our courts.
No Senate action has been (and nothing is on the horizon) on 19 of President Obama’s 38 pending judicial appointments, including two clearly qualified nominees from the Bay Area: Goodwin Liu, a UC Berkeley law professor tapped for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and federal magistrate Edward M. Chen to U.S. District Court. Both men were caught up in smear campaigns in which distorted portions of their records became fodder for the echo chambers of right-wing commentators.
The impact on our courts is devastating. There are only a handful of judges from past generations with the courage to rule against the police or moneyed interests throughout the country, and these will be replaced as soon as they retire or die off by the sort of conservative fools who now inhabit the benches of our judicial system.
The media loves it. Lazy reporters can call the police for the law enforcement side of every arrest, and print an article totally devoid of fact or fairness. It makes for salacious, titillating reading, and the reporter never has to leave his/her desk or worry about the implications of a totally inaccurate “investigative” report.
The public loves it, because it reinforces the false sense of security derived from locking up “dangerous criminals.” As the joke goes, “kill them all and let god sort it out.”
The police and military love it, because it assures them permanent employment and benefits, and allows them to engage in the most scurrilous actions without any serious accountability. What is astonishing is that police departments and prison guard unions are now made up of individuals who are often more humane and considerate than the judges who cower behind every accusation of excessive leniency. We have indeed come a long way….
Until the public recognizes how destructive and suicidal it is to endorse a society bent on imprisoning the largest possible number of its own citizens, and murdering the rest of humanity in needless wars of aggression internationally, we will continue the downward spiral that has characterized this country for the last 30 years.