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Supreme Court Justices: The Next Reality TV Stars

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During the last two years, our Supreme Court has heard many cases. With our Supreme Court Justices becoming more and more public and engaged in the political process, we should feel alarmed at the way Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas are becoming celebrity Justices. Both men’s political leanings have been voiced at a time when we need to have justices of the highest court of the land who are devoid of political influences.

On Monday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia traveled to the Capitol to teach a class about the Constitution to members of Congress, led by controversial Tea Party caucus chairwoman Michele Bachmann. Justice Scalia’s participation in Bachmann’s Constitution school has prompted a heated debate about the proper relationship between Supreme Court justices and political leaders. But the real debate that should be raging is not about judicial ethics, but about the dubious vision of the Constitution that Scalia and leaders of the Tea Party will be discussing.

As Jonathan Turley pointed out in the Washington Post this weekend, while Supreme Court Justices across the ideological spectrum have taken on increasingly prominent public roles, Scalia has become a true “celebrity justice.” But Scalia’s pugnacious celebrity is in service of a distorted and bizarre reinterpretation of the Constitution championed by the Tea Party movement.

There is nothing wrong with teaching a class, but for him to teach one at the invitation of such a controversial politician as Michele Bachmann makes me shudder. I totally believe Representative Bachmann has a right to say whatever she pleases. The Constitution gives her that right. Watching her argue for the sake of TV time without caring about the validity of her statements can be a comical way to pass the time for many. But to know that a Supreme Court Justice is giving her serious face time sounds extremely dangerous to those of us who want a Justice who is not persuaded by the ideology that comes with Bachmann’s fame-seeking.

Let’s review the role of the Supreme Court and what the Constitution say about it.

The United States Supreme Court adjudicates on acts passed through the political system by Congress and President. The Supreme Court’s task is to declare whether an act is constitutional or unconstitutional. The Supreme Court cannot initiate a bill/act—it can only adjudicate.

The Constitution is very clear about the position of the Supreme Court as stated in Article III:

“The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such inferior courts that the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

“The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under the Constitution, the laws of the United States and Treaties.”

As often as we hear about the intent of the Founding Fathers, we rarely hear an emphasis on how important it was that the Founding Fathers wanted to steer clear of outside influences. Our country’s Constitution was drafted by imperfect men who once lived under an oppressive monarchy, although they practiced oppression themselves by owning slaves. The Constitution set up a court to be fair and balanced in administering the laws of the land. With a balanced scale of justice as the focal point, the Constitution has been amended 27 times.

Justice Scalia is beginning to show very little restraint in his partiality, and does not even try to fake fairness anymore. His ranting commentaries remind me of an old man stuck on a toilet. But he is not the only oddball in a black judicial robe. Remember Justice Clarence Thomas? Clarence Thomas is not new to controversy. He came to the bench with flames surrounding his appointment to the highest court of the land. His wife, Virginia Lamp, and his defense of her are causing him another round of side eyes.

Virginia Lamp, who has been a lobbyist and congressional aide, has been very active in politics. She is a consultant to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and founder and president of Liberty Central, an advocacy group associated with the Tea Party movement. In January 2011, Common Cause reported that between 2003 and 2007 Clarence Thomas failed to disclose $686,589 in income earned by his wife from the Heritage Foundation, instead reporting “none” where “spousal non-investment income” would be reported on his Supreme Court financial disclosure forms. Thomas acknowledged in filings shortly thereafter that he erred by not disclosing his wife’s past employment as required by federal law. What? How do you make that mistake for four years? Hmm.

If that was not enough, last year, Miss Virginia played the role of a big bad wolf and called up Anita Hill (yeah…that Anita Hill) and left her a voice mail message at her job demanding that Ms. Hill apologize for causing her husband grief all those years ago. What? Mayhem and foolishness at every turn! This is no way for a Supreme Court Justice’s wife to behave. Justice Thomas has defended his wife’s actions and stated her political views do not interfere with his work on the Supreme Court. Really? Would you want to try a case before the Supreme Court that might involve opposing political views or a nasty divorce case before Justices who have lives resembling the Real Housewives of Atlanta?

As we see Justices becoming more and more accustomed to the limelight and being treated like celebrities, we have to pause and think if this is wise for our country. Scalia and Thomas have reportedly attended events funded by conservative billionaires David and Charles Koch. Both justices were featured in Koch promotional material with Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. At one time, our Justices avoided anything that could be viewed as conservative or liberal stimuli in their lives away from the bench. I am longing for the days of not knowing Justices’ views until they are given in a legal decision and the lives of the Justices not resembling reality TV auditions.

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About Genma Holmes

  • Baronius

    Scalia was not there to “teach a class”. He was there to speak “before an eager freshman class”, according to the article you linked to. But that’s wrong; all members of the House were invited. On top of that, the lecture was about the separation of powers, the least likely subject for an effort to blur the political/judicial distinction.

  • Genma Holmes

    Baronius,
    Thank you for commenting. I have been invited to a number of college classes to speak. Speakers are invite in hopes that students learn something from the speakers.

  • Baronius

    The term “freshman class” doesn’t refer to a group of students. It refers to the incoming congressmen as a whole.

  • Genma Holmes

    Baronius,
    Thanks. This may help:
    Freshmen class definition-
    1. A STUDENT in the first-year class of a high school, college, or university.
    2. A beginner; a novice

  • http://loftypremise.blogspot.com/ Tommy Mack

    James Garner starred in First Monday, a television CBS television show 9 years ago. It did not bomb as much as it was not renewed, but it came to mind as soon as I read your essay and found his Holiness.

    We live in an age when a 24/7 news cycle demands talking faces and the Justices are no exception to that demand. Additionally, people do not read the way they used to, especially when they are through with college. If they do read, it had better be a short, like Joe Cotto’s Roe piece.

    You developed an interesting editorial and are entitled to write they practiced oppression themselves by owning slaves. That isn’t accurate, but it’s what an editorial is about. But I agree with you about Justice Scalia. He would have been a natural on the Garner series.

  • http://loftypremise.blogspot.com/ Tommy Mack

    Yes, I also used to work in the US Department of Redundancy Department, too.

  • Genma Holmes

    Tommy Mack,
    Thanks for commenting. Not ALL owned slaves. Twelve owned or managed slave-operated plantations: Bassett, Blair, Blount, Butler, Carroll, Jenifer, Jefferson, Mason, Charles Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Rutledge, Spaight, and Washington. Madison also owned slaves, as did Franklin. Hope that brings clarity to my editorial.

  • http://loftypremise.blogspot.com/ Tommy Mack

    That is, in fact, important information but practiced oppression is the editorial judgement to which I refer.

    Jefferson’s Declaration [of Independence] draft includes his rant about slavery as “a cruel war against human nature.” However, both northern and southern slaveholding delegates objected and the editors cut it.

    As to Bachmann, that is where your editorial hammer hits the anvil. That a “Supreme Court Justice is giving her serious face time” is dangerous. It strikes me as a conflict of interest.

    Write on.

  • Baronius

    A Supreme Court Justice is giving her serious face time about the separation of powers.

  • Genma Holmes

    Baronius,
    That is some kind of separation of powers. So separate that he has to stand a foot away from her? Hmm.

  • http://loftypremise.blogspot.com/ Tommy Mack

    “Serious face time”, not just garden variety “face time”. Justices require prima facie time; but I am not strictly speaking.

    And B, did you notice Ruvy’s rant to me?

  • Baronius

    Tommy, I don’t like to take discussions across threads. It’s tough enough to keep track of them as is.

  • Boeke

    This is a far right, non-originalist, non-textual and non-strict-construction SCOTUS. It puts to shame the rightist mantra of ‘don’t legislate from the bench’ that we’ve been hearing for many years, usually in opposition to SCOTUS attempts to secure civil rights for people.

    It should be obvious from the Citizens United judgement that enshrined the right of corporations (even if foreign owned) to bribe politicians with so-called “Campaign Contributions”, based on the flimsiest rationales for allowing ‘corporate personhood’.

    Clearly, the rightist Roberts court has taken the side of corporations against the rights of individuals.

    Scalia is an ideologue and Thomas is his slave.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Lucid piece of writing, Genma, and poignant too, in spite of Tommy Mack’s nitpicking about editorializing, lack of brevity (barely three pages long) or whatever else happened to cross his mind.

    Keep at it and stop listening to old farts.

    BTW, “practiced oppression” was a very apt phrase, no better way of describing it. The elusive quest of journalistic objectivity that is being espoused here is nothing but a chimera, appealed to by all but practiced by none. Besides, if I’m not mistaken, your article falls under the category of opinion, and everyone’s entitled to one, even Tommy Mack.

  • Baronius

    Boeke – Do you think that’s funny? Would you make that joke about the president, or any other black person?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    I think it’s hilarious, in fact. So in order to double our fun, let’s put caution to the wind, and political correctness too, and call Justice Thomas by his real name, Uncle Tom.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    Hey – at least with your comment #16, you and I are in complete agreement on at least one thing today….

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    We should start all over again, Glenn, by taking baby steps. (I realize I’ve been a hard taskmaster.)

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Yes, we’ve certainly come far at Blogcritics in our discussions about race. Genma Holmes’s previous BC article was titled “Michael Steele’s Coonery Tour Has Ended.”

    And now that exemplar of social enlightenment, Mr. Nowosielski, labels U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas an Uncle Tom.

    Thank god we’re no longer in the Dark Ages where black folks were denigrated through name-calling.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Do you seriously think, Alan, the phrase should be outlawed? It still has good currency as far as I can tell, especially among black folk.

    Besides, I wasn’t denigrating a group, only an individual.

  • Genma Holmes

    Alan,
    Welcome. Wouldn’t be a post without your comments. Thanks for referencing my previous article. I can’t recall anything you have written off the top of my head.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    That’s probably because I haven’t called anyone a coon or an Uncle Tom at Blogcritics, Aunt Genma. Unlike you and Uncle Roger.

  • Genma Holmes

    Roger,
    Thanks for commenting. Many in the black and white communities have referred to Clarence Thomas as an Uncle Tom. When I think of an Uncle Tom type personality, I think of a person’s character. I wrote an article once about various names and meaning that refer to groups of people. Netted this info:
    Essentially, the accusation of being an Uncle Tom or Tomming questions the accused person’s integrity, or courage, or both. The implication is that the person is demeaning him- or herself or acting against the interests of blacks, generally, for their own personal benefit, out of fear, or simply because they have been brainwashed to be complicit in their own oppression. A “Tom” can be someone judged to be insufficiently outraged by, or inadequately engaged in opposition against, a status quo of white privilege and black disadvantage. Sometimes, the term is applied to individuals who simply are perceived, rightly or wrongly, as being needlessly accommodating of whites.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Can you cite even ONE example of somebody in the white community who has publicly referred to Clarence Thomas as an Uncle Tom? I mean, apart from Uncle Roger.

  • Genma Holmes

    Alan,
    In my comments to you in my previous article you referenced, I corrected your statement that I never called anyone a “coon”. Nor have I called anyone an Uncle Tom. But I am an aunt to many nephews and three nieces. One nephew played in a nationally televised Bowl game. Great being Aunt Genma to such wonderful young people.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    I’ll take that as a “No” to my question in #24. I didn’t think you could answer that. In other words, your second sentence in #23 is a deliberate falsehood.

  • Genma Holmes

    Alan,
    Unlike you, I am not hanging out on blogcritics waiting to respond to your comments. Sorry you did not get an instant response back. Working late. You have a computer that you are at relentlessly search for yourself. I have heard it many times over the years. Thanks for commenting.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Oh, I see. Make that an unapologetic deliberate falsehood.

  • Genma Holmes

    Alan,
    Not like the falsehood you made with the coon reference. You seem to be smitten with my articles. No matter what the subject matter…thanks.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    The title of your article speaks for itself: “Michael Steele’s Coonery Tour Has Ended.”

  • Genma Holmes

    Alan,
    Thanks for reposting the link. We will have to agree to disagree. Your fixation on interrupting my article to fit your frame of mind is not worth the energy and it comes across a little bizarre to me at this point.

  • Baronius

    What about “slave”, Genma? Is it okay to make slavery jokes? A better question is this: why should I let your comfort level, or Boeke’s, affect what I know to be wrong?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Mr. Baronius and Kurtz are given to their usual act of posturing (for the simple reason they’re likely to harbor feelings they themselves are ashamed of – a perfectly understandable human reaction but all so transparent. Well, what would this site be without the prissy types, so I suppose we should all be grateful for the entertainment.

    And BTW, Alan, I don’t mind at all you calling me Uncle Roger so long as you don’t cry uncle in time of need.

  • Genma Holmes

    Roger,
    Thanks for the clarity. You are right very transparent. “Thou protest too much.”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    I hope they’re not cartoon characters, Genma, in real life. Still, one must respond to to their online persona.

  • Genma Holmes

    #31 should read “interpreting my article”

  • Genma Holmes

    Roger,
    I am not quite sure. You are right, one have to address the online persona, even the ones that add the creep factor to their commentary over a period of time. I can only imagine if there is this “deliberate” stance to being misinformed in the comment section of an article that I wrote, how deep into the abyss I would have to dive if I actually read an article by them. Yikes!

  • Genma Holmes

    Roger,
    I am not quite sure. You are right, one have to address the online persona, even the ones that add the creep factor to their commentary over a period of time. I can only imagine if there is this “deliberate” stance to being misinformed in the comment section of an article that I wrote, how deep into the abyss I would have to dive if I actually read an article by them. Yikes!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    BTW, Genma, let me alert you to writings of Ms Bell Hooks, an African-American feminist and freedom fighter, in particular, her collection of essays, Outlaw culture: resisting representations. She’s quite critical of many prominent figures in the African-American community precisely for “selling-out.”

    What I find hypocritical on the part of nonesuch as Mr. Kurtz and Mr. Baronius is their double standard – in this case, that blacks can be critical of other blacks, but it’s a no-no when issued from the mouth of a white person – as though we were not all human beings made of the same flesh and blood. Indeed, to my mind it’s the worst kind of hidden racism, hideous for the fact that it masquerades under the guise of proper decorum.

  • Baronius

    So, I guess you two must be overcompensating for your hidden right-wing agenda?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Sorry to be the proverbial thorn in your side, Baronious, but look at it this way: everyone needs one.

  • Baronius

    Whatever, Roger. Calling someone a racist is a vile thing to do, and using the lack of evidence as evidence is just adolescent.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    I didn’t call you a racist, Baronius, just commented on the prissy behavior. Your objections to form of words does indeed strike me as superficial and indicative of conflicting feelings on the subject, especially in light of the fact that as a true-blue conservative – I’m not being facetious – you ought to be against the notion of political correctness when used to excess.

    I’m just a commenter, Baronius, on what I see on the screen, not a reader of hearts and minds, so don’t be attributing to me supernatural powers I don’t claim for myself.

  • Boeke

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to derail the thread by referring to Justice Thomas as a ‘slave’ to Scalia, I should have called him Scalia’s ‘poodle’, a more modern context.

    When I thought of slavery it was not with our connotation of ‘black slave’, but rather the historical ‘slave’, which pre-dates us, and will live on long after we are gone and society thoroughly integrated.

    As for ‘uncle Tom’, IMO the attribution never seemed pejorative since I actually read “Uncle Toms Cabin” as a teenager and Tom seemed rather heroic to me. YMMV. So I’ve never called anyone an Uncle Tom, not from (undeserved) delicate sensibilities, but from uncertainty as to it’s meaning.

  • Genma Holmes

    Baronius.
    If something is hidden, how can you say what it is? There is nothing hidden in my opinion that I would rather have a supreme court Justice not to be celebrity.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    When, on another thread, Irv called Roger a dumb Polack, Roger became righteously indignant. Irv didn’t malign a group. He didn’t say all Polacks are dumb. He was specifically targeting Mr. Nowosielski.

    Now, on this thread, Roger calls Justice Thomas an Uncle Tom and justifies it thus (#20): “I wasn’t denigrating a group, only an individual.”

    Moreover, after being criticized for insulting Justice Thomas, Roger psychoanalyzes his critics (#33: “likely to harbor feelings they themselves are ashamed of”) and archly dismisses us as cartoon characters (#35).

    And Genma cheers him on!

    What a place.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Must have struck a cord, Alan, if you’re stooping to this level with your moral equivalences. And yes, the more you keep on talking, the more of a cartoon character your’re surely becoming,

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    The word you’re groping for is “chord,” Roger, not “cord.”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Wasn’t groping, Alan, just misspelled it. Any other comments I should heed?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Roger, you and your loyal camp follower [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor] wield ad hominem axes struck from the same forge. Within the space of hours, in different threads, she labeled someone who dared to disagree with her a “cocksucker” and you called me a cartoon character.

    You thus reiterate the disdain for rational discourse evident in your smear of Justice Thomas. You cannot be bothered to tell us which of his legal decisions or public speeches you disagree with, or why. You only have time to lodge a crude racial slur and then scurry away to attend to your countless other vilifications on BC threads.

    And for this you seem to think you ought to be admired and congratulated! Your conceit is, like the stench of a toxic chemical spill, overpowering.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    I didn’t approve of Cindy’s epithet, Alan, so don’t be dumping this on me. As to my characterization of you as cartoon-like character, insofar as your internet persona is concerned, I stand by what I said. Further, your reference to rational discourse also sounds hollow to me when coming from your mouth, for the very same reason.

    But to level with you, I’ve given you as much rope I’m ever going to give you. I would even defend you at times in spite of your all too often obnoxious behavior, figuring you were just being provocative for effect, no harm done. I could understand and deal with it. No longer.

    You’re not fun to be around with anymore, Alan, there’s no wit in you; you’re just plain acerbic. I have no idea whether it’s due to a psychological or physiological condition. Either way, I no longer care. So go on on your merry old way, just know this: never again will I stand in your corner.

    And good luck with your endeavors.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Stand in my corner. Hah! With friends like you, who needs enemies?

  • Genma Holmes

    Alan,
    Responding to a comment posted without becoming indignant in the comment does not equate cheering one on. Your history with another poster seems to be the issue here now not so much my article anymore. Noticing that you take commenting very seriously. I don’t. But thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    HEY!

    Will y’all please just kiss and make up? Yeah, people here throw insults and snide comments at each other, but this site is still one of the most polite sites around.

    Here’s something I’ve found over the years – we don’t always have to keep digging on the minutiae of what this or that person said. Yeah, it’s frustrating when someone doesn’t admit their fault, but sometimes it’s more pragmatically feasible to let it go and get on to other things. Why? Because if the other person is as intelligent as most of us think, he’ll eventually pull his head out of [place location here] and join the rest of us in this logical, sensible world.

    So…can’t we all just get along?

  • Clavos

    So…can’t we all just get along?

    How boring! Where’s the fun in that?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Kiss ‘n make up? You must be kidding, Glenn. Have you seen how ugly he looks?

    Wouldn’t do it for a million bucks, well, with a Tennessee two-bagger I might.

  • El Bicho

    Yeah, because that worked so well the last time you asked, Glenn

  • Glenn Contrarian

    *chuckle*

    Also, sometimes the best thing to do to break up a fight is to say something really silly and become the target….and the combatants forget about each other.

    Mission accomplished!

    *ducks back down into msnbchole*

  • Genma Holmes

    Glenn,
    Thank you for your words of wisdom.