Category Archive 'Roger B. Taney'

16 May 2008

Judicial Endruns Inflame Political Differences

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In 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney applied his judicial powers to conclude once and for all the vexatious arguments about the extension of Slavery to the the Western territories which had persisted since 1820. In Dred Scott v. Sandiford , he ruled that persons of African descent could never be US citizens, slaves could not sue in court, and Congress had power to exclude Slavery from the territories. So there. The result, of course, was the Civil War.

The Wall Street Journal editorializes today on the folly of judges usurping the decision-making power of the people as a whole.

Judges invent wedge issues. Always have. As with California’s Supreme Court, many of the berobed judiciary take it as their solemn duty to do the people’s thinking for them on the modern world’s most difficult and divisive social issues. So it was with Roe v. Wade, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared 50 state legislatures irrelevant. The aftermath has been more than 30 years of the abortion wars.

California’s Supreme Court is not the law of the land, but its 4-3 ruling, titled “In re Marriage Cases” for six consolidated appeals, explicitly told both the state’s voters and its elected legislature to get lost. Back in 2000, California voters by 61% approved a proposition asserting that the state could only recognize a “marriage” between man and woman.

Now comes the court. In the court’s words: “[T]he core set of basic substantive [court’s emphasis] legal rights and attributes traditionally associated with marriage . . . are so integral to an individual’s liberty and personal autonomy that they may not be eliminated or abrogated by the Legislature or by the electorate through the statutory initiative process.” This rule by judicial decree could hardly be clearer. What is also clear is that judges should again be an election issue.

The school of thought which holds that the American people should cheerfully accede to whatever social world unelected judges design for them is Democratic orthodoxy. …

The gay community wants social acceptance. It should look to what flowed from Roe v. Wade: unending bitterness. A wiser course in 21st-century America is to trust the democratic process.


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