The Day The Law Died

Well, you knew it was coming. The White House has imperiously thrown out house AND senate congressional subpoenas, and the Roberts Supreme Court decided that 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education, the legal bedrock of the entire Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the case that put Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court, that overturned the horrific Plessy v. Ferguson “separate but equal” rationalization for Jim Crow laws, well, the Roberts Court has declared THAT struggle over:

From the AP story from the Washington Post:

The decision in cases affecting how students are assigned to schools in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle could imperil similar plans in hundreds of districts nationwide, and it further restricted how public school systems may attain racial diversity.

The court split, 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts announcing the court’s judgment. The court’s four liberal justices dissented.

“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” Roberts said.

… Justice Stephen Breyer, in a dissent joined by the other liberals on the court, said Roberts’ opinion undermined the promise of integrated schools that the court laid out 53 years ago in its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

“To invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown,” Breyer said.

While Roberts said the court was being faithful to the Brown decision, Justice John Paul Stevens in a separate dissent called the chief justice’s reliance on Brown to rule against integration “a cruel irony.”

Justice Clarence Thomas*, the court’s only black member, wrote a separate opinion endorsing the ruling and taking issue with the dissenters’ view of the Brown case.

“What was wrong in 1954 cannot be right today,” Thomas said. “The plans before us base school assignment decisions on students’ race. Because ‘our Constitution is colorblind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens,’ such race-based decisionmaking is unconstitutional.”

[* Thurgood Marshall’s “replacement” on the bench — HW]

Naturally, it was a 5-4 decision with a conflicted Justice Kennedy agreeing (barely) with the majority. Thus do we culminate a week in which Dick Cheney became a fourth branch of government, amended (using Occam’s Razor, perhaps) to the simpler: “Go to hell. I am the king.” And a week in which free speech was repudiated for powerless students (for, it turns out, advocating a LEGAL in Alaska at the time practice) while promoting it for rich corporations. What a capper!

Here’s some happy talk from the White House and its f(r)iends(via AP):

Some quotes about the White House’s assertion of executive privilege Thursday, rejecting lawmakers’ demands for documents that could shed light on the firings of federal prosecutors.

“We’ve made it clear that we are willing to share information with Congress so that they can do their jobs, but on the other hand, we think it is essential, as a matter of principle, to protect the prerogatives of the presidency, especially when it comes to being able to have privileged and confidential communications with key staff members and key executive branch officials.” _ White House spokesman Tony Snow.


“They at least offered. We would be much farther ahead in finding out whether there’s any real impropriety here or not.” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, suggesting that the Democrats should have accepted, rather than rejected, the White House’s previous offer to allow officials to be interviewed in private and without a transcript.


“It is unfortunate that the majority has seen fit to turn down reasonable offers of cooperation in favor of court battles that will do nothing except draw headlines and further distract the Judiciary Committee from work that needs to be done.” _ Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah.


“I support the administration’s decision to assert executive privilege in the matter of these subpoenas. I never went along with them to begin with, and believed Congress had overstepped its bounds in issuing them.” _ Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

Have serpents ever slithered so unselfconsciously?

To be fair (and, thus, repudiate core GOP philosophy), Sensenbrenner is either still upset about losing his House Judiciary Chairthingship, allowing him to order the lights and microphones shut off on Rep. John Conyers’ basement hearings, or else he’s still bitter about not winning the “Worst Combover in History” award that he so richly deserves.

Snow, Cannon and Hatch are, as per usual, madder than a March hare.

And that’s probably a segue to the best advice: run like hell for the hills.

So bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee,
but the levee was dry.
Them good old boys was drinking whisky and rye
and singing “this’ll be the day that I die …
this’ll be the day that I die …”

— (Don McLean – American Pie)


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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
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3 Responses to The Day The Law Died

  1. alrudder says:

    1) Judicial opinions are what count the most in America. Ignore the speeches and literature of the parties, look to what Democratic-appointed judges write and Republican-appointed judges write. THAT is how you tell the difference between the parties.

    2) When you meet one of these sophistical demagogues (like Nader) who say the parties are the same, relay John Kerry’s words: I have three words for you “The Supreme Court”

    3) Election campaigns are consequential. The volunteers in GOP headquarters who elected Bush in 2004 flexed more power than the ivy-league educated Democratic staff attorneys on the Judiciary Committee trying to stop Roberts and Alito in 2005.

  2. Darrell Prows says:

    With 19 years on the Supreme Court under his belt, Kennedy is still only 71. Given those numbers (as well “5 to 4”), I wish I had a clue about what he’s doing. Because of his refusal to join much of the Roberts opinion, Kennedy’s actually becomes most of the majority opinion. And I haven’t read the 185 pages so I won’t claim to know exactly how fractured this thing really is. Oddly, he was willing to nudge the law slightly in the wrong direction, preventing it from being jerked completely that way. As he has done so many times.

    Does Justice Kennedy have a vision? Does he think that the law is almost perfect, except for a few small squeaks that he is best suited to fix? Does he just draw straws?

    What kind of a Supreme Court do we really have when one guy effectively becomes the law of the land? What kind of a country do we have when folks “white flight” to the subburbs, and the minorities that replace them are forced to keep using schools that are clearly inferior?

    The answer is that we have a country where the most dramatically crazy people can’t be given the death sentence because one minute before throwing the switch they don’t have the capacity to understand the reason why they’re dieing. Of course, the others have exactly the same level of understanding the connection between their crime and their punishment a few moments after the switch is pulled but killing them makes perfect sense.

  3. Darrell writes: “What kind of a Supreme Court do we really have when one guy effectively becomes the law of the land?”

    The SCOTUSblog total is frightening, isn’t it? Kennedy was in the five to four majority in 24 of the 24 5-4 cases? That’s more than astonishing. He’s arguably the most powerful person on the court and in the country right now. Easily.

    “What kind of a country do we have when folks “white flight” to the subburbs, and the minorities that replace them are forced to keep using schools that are clearly inferior?”

    A country that twice elected a “conservative” moron to the White House.