Campus Ideologies: Three student parties take on Supreme court reform

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Rowan Progressives

To be direct, the Supreme Court as an institution is alien to the needs of the people. Since the beginning, the Supreme Court has been an antidemocratic force against the working class. President John Adams went as far as to say, “Remember Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a Democracy yet, that did not commit suicide.” These anti-democratic notions form the foundations of the Supreme Court. This is evidenced by the fact that justices aren’t elected, but they also serve for life. The Court is more akin to a council of nine kings than any representative body.  

It should also be noted that the great power that the Supreme Court has gathered for itself today is not natural, not even when the Court was founded. It was only under John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice (of which there have only been 17 during the past 200-plus years of the Court), that the Court seized for itself the power of judicial review. Judicial review gave the Court the power to override the legislature, which has been used dozens of times throughout history. 

Most prominently in recent days, the Court blocked Biden’s attempt to free millions of Americans from the crushing weight of student debt. It must be made clear that the power the Supreme Court holds is not normal, when compared to other liberal democracies like in Europe the power of the American Supreme Court is an aberration. In most other European democracies, their highest constitutional court is often separate from civil or criminal law, and in most cases (such as Britain) the court is secondary to the legislature. 

With the power that the Supreme Court has amassed, it has routinely used that power to crack down on minorities and working people. Famously in “Dred Scott v. Sandford” (1857), the court ruled that enslaved Africans weren’t citizens, a deeply racist decision. This was followed by the Civil Rights Cases of 1883, where the Supreme Court struck down the Civil Rights Act of 1875 which provided the legal right for Jim Crow and then held up Jim Crow in “Plessy v. Ferguson” (1896). These cases were eventually reversed by the Court over the middle part of the 20th Century, with rulings like “Brown v. BoE” (1954) among others, that only came after one of the largest mass mobilizations of people in this country. 

It took African Americans decades of fighting to force the Court to recognize their fundamental rights. And it is not only African Americans that have been oppressed by the court. In “Lochner v. New York,” the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional for laws to protect the rights of workers. It was not until the 1930s when Franklin Roosevelt had to quite literally bully and threaten the Court that this was reversed, and even some of his more ambitious laws to protect workers were still blocked by the Court like in Schechter’s “Poultry Corp. v. United States” (1935). 

And it isn’t just in the past that the Court has made these anti-people rulings. Citizens United v FEC (2010) has made it so that we haven’t had an election free of corporate interference for over a decade, West Virginia vs EPA (2022) crippled the EPA’s ability to protect the environment, and most egregiously the Court overturned “Roe v. Wade.” This blatant attack on women in the United States went against the popular will of 61% of America and fifty years of precedent. The Supreme Court should be abolished or greatly altered, but we can settle for term limits which 67% of Americans support.

Rowan Democrats

In today’s America, faith in social and government institutions is at an all-time low. While Congress and the Media are frontrunners for the most untrustworthy at 8% and 14% respectively, the Supreme Court of the United States has seen a steep decline in public trust since 2021. After the decision of “Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization” (2022), many Americans were outraged at the institution due to their blatant disregard of judicial precedent. 

This case overturned a powerful and long-standing precedent set by the 1973 case, “Roe v. Wade,” a right to privacy with a provision for abortion access. What frustrates the majority of Americans– who say access to abortion should be legally protected– is the fact that the precedent set by “Roe v. Wade” (1973) has been previously upheld in cases such as “Planned Parenthood v. Casey” (1992) in which the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling made in 1973. 

Initially, the framers’ vision for the Judicial Branch was to merely serve as a separation of power from the political structures of government. Ideally, the United States Supreme Court as well as all federal courts below it would not be influenced by political ideology and would instead serve at the direction of the U.S. Constitution. Currently, the leaders of the Judicial Branch have completely deviated from the vision of the framers and have instead transformed into a very powerful institution that has expanded its power with cases such as “Marbury v. Madison” (1803), in which Chief Justice John Marshall established the principle of judicial review, or, the power to determine if laws are constitutional (notably, a power not given to the courts in the Constitution).

As a consequence of the Supreme Court’s increase in power, it has become a political weapon and the current (and, for the foreseeable future, permanent) conservative super-majority has threatened the legitimacy of the Judicial Branch with its inherent political bias, religious beliefs, corporate influence, and its very founding. The Roberts Court was made a conservative superpower by Former President Donald Trump’s historic appointment of three Supreme Court Justices in a single presidential term: Neil Gorsuch (2017), Brett Kavanaugh (2018), and Amy Coney Barett (2020), creating the most controversial and abusive Supreme Court in United States history. 

To restore the vision of the founders, we must distance the Supreme Court from politics and structure the court around equal ideological representation. No more than four liberal justices should serve on the bench as well as no more than four conservative justices. Accordingly, an independent justice should act as the ninth and tie-breaking vote. This will encourage Presidents to appoint justices based not on their party’s projects, but on credentials and merit. 

Two other reforms that could plausibly restore the legitimacy of the court would be to limit terms for Justices and to install an Ethics Review Committee to ensure the court remains unbiased and uninfluenced by outside agents. A bonus of these reforms is that they all would create much-needed checks on the office of the President by limiting the amount of power they have to completely alter the highest court’s political composition for decades to come. 

The current state of the Supreme Court of the United States does not serve in the interests of the American people, the foundational ideology of the Framers, or the United States Constitution, and requires reformation to restore faith in the institution. 

Rowan Republicans

Regrettably, Rowan Republicans failed to respond promptly and have not been included in this week’s political discussion.

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