Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Themis, Wherefore Art Thou?

Themis. To the ancient Greeks, Themis was the goddess of justice.  Wiki offers this description:
She is described as "[the Lady] of good counsel", and is the personification of divine order, fairness, law, natural law, and custom.
Today, Themis is commonly depicted blindfolded, "blind justice." The blindfold was introduced during the Renaissance.

Vancouver courthouse

The blindfold represents impartiality, the ideal that justice should be applied without regard to wealth, power, or other status.
Order, fairness, law and impartiality are all cornerstones of true justice today, in those countries where true justice is still dispensed. Sadly, the United States is not among the ranks of countries that bother with true justice.

The American judicial system is corrupt, by design. Trump is about to drive another nail into the coffin of justice in the next few days when he will announce his "pick" to replace retiring Justice Kennedy on the US Supreme Court. The goal is to stack the deck with reliable conservative judges.

Trump is working through a short list of candidates cherry-picked by the Federalist Society. This arch-conservative/libertarian organization has culled the herd to a select list of reliable arch-conservative prospects. What that means is that deliberately excluded from the Federal Society's list will be any great legal minds, no matter how brilliant or deserving, that don't meet the ideological standard.

That means that America's Themis has no blindfold. To the contrary, the American supreme court can be counted on to dispense justice through an ideological filter. If your leaning matches the court's, you're in good hands. If, however, you're of the same perspective as the majority of Americans, you're screwed by a rigged system.

It's not as though there's anything underhanded in this. People like Trump don't even pretend to want an unbiased court, the only court that can dispense real justice. They have their priorities and fairness and justice aren't on their list.

What Trump is doing isn't particularly alarming. That a Republican Congress will rubber stamp his choice isn't alarming. What is really alarming is the body of American lawyers and their law societies that allow this corruption to continue, unchallenged, without a protest.

I think of lawyers in Pakistan who risked their careers, even for some their lives, to take to the streets in defiance of their government's attempts to corrupt their judicial system. Their American counterparts, by contrast, have succumbed to complacency, accepted the corruption.

You cannot obtain justice from an ideologically compromised court. You cannot have a fair court by choosing justices for their ideological bias. The American people, their political leadership, their lawyers and their judges think that's just fine.

The bottom line is that the rule of law, the cornerstone of democracy, is defeated when the judicial system is compromised.


Anonymous said...

The US justice system needs a complete overhaul, starting with the constitution. The goals should be to minimize political interference in the system and appointments to the bench, simplify the overly complicated division between state and federal courts, and remove profit-seeking.

Elected judges and lifetime appointments are bad ideas that need to be scrapped. For-profit prisons, bail bondsmen and bounty hunters - all terrible ideas. Capital punishment, torture and indefinite detention are all incompatible with a modern justice system.

Finally, the president should be treated the same as other citizens and should be subject to criminal prosecution while in office. He should be stripped of his pardon and commutation powers so he can't reward crooked donors and flunkies, influence witnesses against him or have a successor pardon his crimes.

There's a lot more that needs fixing, but that's a good start.


The Mound of Sound said...

It's a stacked deck to be sure, Cap. And, you're right, it needs a thorough, top down rehabilitation.

Northern PoV said...

You nailed this one.
Much of the social progress of modern western civilization has been the accomplished by enlightened judges.

We here in Canada shouldn't get too smug.
At least the Yankees fight about this....

Harper's destruction of our own judicial system was well underway (along with much of of civic society) and mostly ignored.

Tip of the iceberg was our Supreme court: Russell Brown: his fellow jurist are too polite to ask how an obscure UoA legal blogger got to the Supremes ... and most Canadians didn't even notice. And Nadon was only stopped cause of a fiesty lawyer from Toronto, Rocco Galati.

And Harper was busy packing the lower courts. They are like ticking time bombs waiting for the next CON regime.

It was my main reason for voting 'strategically' for Socks. No regrets.

Anonymous said...

The timing and circumstances around Justice Kennedy's resignation smell worse than a meat packer. Gorsuch's appointment, bad as it is, didn't change the political makeup of the court. Kennedy remained the swing vote between the four judges on the right and the four more to the left. Kennedy's resignation changes all that.

The timing of the resignation is highly political and suspicious. Kennedy is reported to be healthy and had hired clerks for the fall term. A judge planning to resign wouldn't do that because it leaves the new clerks high and dry without a job. By resigning now, Kennedy gives Trump another free appointment before a potential blue wave in November that could allow Dems to block it.

Kennedy broke with tradition in order to tender his resignation to Trump at the White House. The resignation comes on the heels of news that Kennedy's son was Trump's banker at Deutsche Bank, a bank that has been heavily fined for laundering money for Russian kleptocrats. Kennedy's other son is connected to Cambridge Analytica. In other words, both sons are potentially in Mueller's crosshairs and the SCOTUS could find itself adjudicating cases involving them.

All of this casts Kennedy's most recent judgments in a new light, especially since they all went Trump's way. As you point out, this is the problem with a highly politicized court - judgments are decided by political ties rather than the merits of the case.


Danneau said...

Not to trivialize things, but reading BC Mary's stuff (along with Laila, Norm, et al) through the dark days of the Campbell/Clark régime might lead one to believe that this is as much true in some of our home jurisdictions (BC Supreme Court?) as it is with SCOTUS. Previous comment re: Kennedy connections is ominous and disturbing, but then, so is most of the news and what underlies it. I'm afraid that the strategic vote for Socks, like most votes and rear-guard actions, only delays what looks like the inevitable. And even where there is a "win", the delays in getting there can have pretty dire consequences, as in the case of the BCTF dealings with Clark & Co. as well as the current morass of net-pen fish farms. I think I'll go contemplate this as I dig up the garlic.

Purple library guy said...

Of course most American judges, and certainly pretty much everyone on the Supreme Court, are also corrupt as hell. Many American judges are elected, which sounds nice on paper, but which in the US means that just like any other politician they do favours for their campaign donors. Most of them were once prosecutors of some sort, during which time nearly all of them used corrupt means to inflate the number of convictions they achieved, typically by coerced plea bargains using paid-for-perjury jailhouse snitches and other threats of fake evidence.
Even once firmly in the judge's seat, it seems the modern American judiciary has deeply relaxed any rules they might have once had against people with legal axes to grind giving judges nice things; those dudes, right up to the Supremes themselves, apparently go on a LOT of luxury "retreats" paid for by corporate outfits whose cases they're gonna hear.

Hypothetically, a Supreme Court stacked with hard-right-wing judges who were brilliant legal scholars committed to impartial justice . . . would still be pretty bad. But that's not what these people are, they're bought-and-paid-for hacks who will give whatever verdict their bribes tell them to, with racism, general bigotry, and instinctive support for power and wealth just the cherries on top.