Justice Ginsburg speaks out

George Bush politicized the federal courts — including the U.S. Supreme Court. He wants justices who will turn back women’s rights. And, that’s happening. It’s actually just beginning. As the NY Times reported earlier this week, there is, however, one Justice who is calling her colleagues on their politics:

Both in the abortion case the court decided last month and the discrimination ruling it issued on Tuesday, Justice Ginsburg read forceful dissents from the bench. In each case, she spoke not only for herself but also for three other dissenting colleagues, Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Stephen G. Breyer.

But the words were clearly her own, and they were both passionate and pointed. In the abortion case, in which the court upheld the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act seven years after having struck down a similar state law, she noted that the court was now “differently composed than it was when we last considered a restrictive abortion regulation.” In the latest case, she summoned Congress to overturn what she called the majority’s “parsimonious reading” of the federal law against discrimination in the workplace.

To read a dissent aloud is an act of theater that justices use to convey their view that the majority is not only mistaken, but profoundly wrong. It happens just a handful of times a year. Justice Antonin Scalia has used the technique to powerful effect, as has Justice Stevens, in a decidedly more low-key manner.

The oral dissent has not been, until now, Justice Ginsburg’s style. She has gone years without delivering one, and never before in her 15 years on the court has she delivered two in one term. In her past dissents, both oral and written, she has been reluctant to breach the court’s collegial norms. “What she is saying is that this is not law, it’s politics,” Pamela S. Karlan, a Stanford law professor, said of Justice Ginsburg’s comment linking the outcome in the abortion case to the fact of the court’s changed membership. “She is accusing the other side of making political claims, not legal claims.”

Ginsburg is right, of course. For all Bush appointees, even judges, it’s all about politics. On the Today Show this morning, Joan Biskupic, who is the Supreme Court reporter for USA Today, basically said that Ginsburg wants Americans to know the Court is moving backwards. That’s a scary reality.

The right wing theocrats now have a majority on the Supreme Court. Your rights really are at stake.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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