Bill Lockwood: Judicial Supremacy?
by Bill Lockwood
Thomas Jefferson warned us that the Supreme Court itself had the potential to distort the original intent of the Founders by using “Judicial Review.” He saw that the Court might begin creating law instead of merely interpreting the laws passed by the legislature and applying them in the cases that came before it. Late in life he wrote:
It has long, however, been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression … that the germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal judiciary; an irresponsible body, (for impeachment is scarcely a scare-crow) working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped from the States, and the government of all be consolidated into one. To this I am opposed; because, when all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.
While there are certainly other factors involved in America’s decline from its original constitutional model, Jefferson’s admonition strikes at the heart of the issues involved today.
With the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and President Trump’s constitutional role in filling that vacancy, the war that is shaping up in Washington, D.C. is ominous. Showing complete disdain for our Constitution, the frenzied left is promising such outlandish measures as bringing impeachment charges against our president solely for the purpose of hindering him from doing his Constitutional duty.
Let’s look, however, behind the mayhem to see the foundational issues involved.
One rude and reckless blogger posted this on Facebook. “With justice Ginsberg passing today, all my female and minority friends better vote like your life depends upon it … these … Republicans are going to have you barefoot and in the kitchen with zero rights over your genitals and put minorities ‘back in their place’ in society …!!”
It is difficult to imagine a more frantic and ignorant statement than this. But it does highlight some major erroneous thought processes that live on the socialist left. Before noting them it is worth mentioning that the comment above focuses upon the issue of abortion. That is noteworthy because it is the lefties and socialists in America who like to say, “You conservatives are a ONE ISSUE group of people—always mentioning abortion!” In point of fact, that is inaccurate—however, surrounding the war pertaining to Ginsberg’s replacement, just who is riveting attention to one single issue? The Liberal Left.
Judicial Supremacy is a “radical over-extension”, indeed, perversion – “of the legitimate doctrines of ‘judicial review and stare decisis (‘to stand by matters that have been settled’). In brief, the modern doctrine of “judicial supremacy” is as follows: (1) That the Supreme Court has the authority to construe the Constitution in issues that come before the Court and that that meaning of the Constitution, instead of applying only against the parties that come before the Court, applies against everyone in the country situated in similar circumstances.
(2) That an opinion of the Supreme Court can only be modified or cancelled by a later opinion of the Supreme Court or by a formal amendment to the Constitution.
(3) Nothing can be done to any justice of the Court as a consequence of any opinion handed down, no matter how fraudulent or willfully false it may be.
(4) Most importantly: Judicial Supremacy assumes that the meaning of the Constitution’s provisions are: (i) largely unknown and even unknowable, unless that provision becomes illuminated by the Supreme Court itself; (ii) politically plastic, in that the meaning of those provisions can, and even should, change from time to time as the Supreme Court deems advisable.
What Shall We Say to These Things?
Like liberal views of the Bible, so these views of the Constitution and of the role of the Supreme Court land us in nothing less than an oligarchy whereby we are ruled by a board of nine judges—not the Constitution itself. And in case of a 5-4 decision by the Court, the fate of the nation can be decided by only one single judge. Little wonder therefore, that the Political War of 2020 is heightening.
First, the Constitution had a Definite Meaning Before the Supreme Court was Formed. The Constitution and all of its provisions were well known by the people much before the Supreme Court was formed. The Constitution was ratified in 1788 and the Bill of Rights in 1791. However, the Supreme Court was not formed until 1789 and the first cases reached it in August of 1791. In other words, the Supreme Court did not even exist when the Constitution was ratified. Are we to believe that it was passed and ratified by “We the People” but that they had no idea as to its meaning until nine black-robed justices began handing down decisions?
Further, public officeholders have been “bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support the Constitution” and the president to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution”—no person could honestly have taken this oath before the formation and decisions of the Supreme Court if “Judicial Supremacy” be true.
Second, Judicial Supremacy is Self-Contradictory. Article 3 of the Constitution covers the Judicial Branch. “The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” Section 2 describes the cases that come before the Supreme Court. Those who favor the modern doctrine of “Judicial Supremacy” point to this Section to establish it. But that presupposes that we are able to comprehend the meaning of its provisions without Supreme Court clarification.
This is the same fundamental contradiction made by the Roman Church when seeking to establish papal supremacy. Catholic defenders run to Matthew 16:16-18 in an effort to establish the doctrine in the minds of doubters. However, this maneuver assumes that one may read and understand the text without papal assistance. In point of fact, the text actually teaches no such thing as papal supremacy any more than Article 3 gives foundation for Judicial Supremacy.
Third, the Constitution is Self-Defining. One is able to read and understand the meaning of the text without assistance from an “inspired” Court of Nine. If there are challenges to interpretation, one need only read The Federalist Papers, the commentary composed by those who actually wrote the Constitution, to determine its meaning. As a matter of fact, it was upon this basis, by the notes put together in articles by John Jay, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton, that the colonies learned and accepted the Constitution to begin with.
There is a frenzy of activity surrounding the replacement of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, but the real reason the Democrat/Socialists of America are waging war is found in the following statement from the Tenth Amendment Center. “Progressives want a living, breathing Constitution because they want to mold society into their own image. They crave power. Originalism restrains power.” Without rule of law, government becomes arbitrary and despotic. Exactly where the Socialists will take us.