Connecting the Dots: A Supreme Court Broken

The end of the Supreme Court’s 2010-2011 term was marked in part by a series of recent developments and revelations highlighting the dire state of the Supreme Court, an institution that should be a fair and impartial forum for justice.

The Court has instead become increasingly damaged, especially with landmark decisions such as in Dukes v. Wal-Mart, which told women that Wal-Mart is above the law. We only have to look back to Bush v. Gore, Citizens United, and numerous other cases to see that our highest court in the land does not mete out “Equal Justice Under Law.”

If the Equal Justice Society and its allies are to accomplish our mission of reclaiming the 14th Amendment and its protections against discrimination, we must be able to argue our cases before impartial justices who do not reflexively rule against the interests of average Americans.

Let’s connect the dots:

“Wal-Mart Gets a Free Pass For Bias From the Supreme Court” — “The Supreme Court issued its decision in the Dukes v. Wal-Mart sex discrimination case [Monday], a frustrating ruling that doesn’t challenge the existence of bias, but that exempts the company from accountability” wrote Rinku Sen on “The case highlights the difficulty of addressing discrimination at a time when intentional bias is both illegal and socially unacceptable, and yet obvious gender and racial gaps remain.”

Our friends at the Impact Fund and Equal Rights Advocates are continuing the fight. But like the Citizens United decision, the Dukes decision demonstrates that the Supreme Court will favor corporations over people and business interests over civil rights.

Eva Paterson ties together the problems with the courts. — EJS President Eva Paterson joined Nan Aron (Alliance for Justice), U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Dahlia Lithwick (Slate) and Carl Pope (Sierra Club) on a panel organized by Alliance for Justice at last week’s Netroots Nation to address the growing influence of corporations within the American judicial system, particularly in the Supreme Court. Watch the video.

And on top of the high court’s pattern of decisions, we see growing concern over ethics.

“Clarence Thomas participated in a secret political fundraising event put on by the Koch brothers to fund Tea Party infrastructure groups.” — A June 19 exposé in The New York Times detailed Justice Clarence Thomas’s ties to a conservative donor, his lack of disclosure in receiving gifts, and donations given to the Justice’s wife to fund a Tea Party-related group. From the NYT article: “The code of conduct is quite clear that judges are not supposed to be soliciting money for their pet projects or charities, period,” said Arn Pearson, a lawyer with Common Cause. “If any other federal judge was doing it, he could face disciplinary action.”

In April, Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Justice Antonin Scalia’s son was a partner in the firm representing Wal-Mart. Egelko describes the convoluted way in which Justice Scalia was able to escape an obligation to recuse himself from the case, but it demonstrates the need for more attention to the matter of judicial ethics.

It’s time that we work together to restore the Supreme Court to a level playing field with impartial referees so that our efforts to reclaim the 14th Amendment and the Constitutional protections against discrimination can someday be fairly heard.

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