Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why We Care About Who Sits On The Supreme Court

I had a post yesterday which featured a letter from one of my home state U.S. Senators, Kay Hagan (D-NC). The letter to me was in response to emails and letters I had sent opposing the confirmation of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. I was, and still am, incensed that it took four months since Kagan was confirmed and probably six months or more since I first wrote to get a response. This is, of course, in an era of modern communications totally unacceptable.

A reader sent me a comment on my post on Hagan's letter saying, "With all the crap going wrong in America today, why would you get so worked up over a Supreme Court Appointment? Relative to jobs, the economy, our deficits, our nation being screwed by its bankers ... the make up of the Supreme Court is background noise."

The reason to get "worked up" over a Supreme Court appointment is simple. The Justices on the Supreme Court, through their decisions, have affected virtually all aspects of life in America. With a Court that is divided 5 to 4, one new Justice can change the whole complexion of the law for generations to come.

Without Justice Souter being replaced by Justice Alito, the Second Amendment would not be an individual right in fact and law. We would have lost the Heller decision. Without that win we would never have even had a McDonald decision.

If you don't think the Supreme Court impacts every aspect of American life, let me give you some examples.

Until Brown v. Board of Education, separate but equal was still legal.

Until Heart of Atlanta v. United States, blacks could still be denied service in a restaurant or hotel due to the color of their skin.

Until Griswold v. Connecticut, you could be prosecuted for using birth control in many states.

Until Roe v. Wade, abortion was generally outlawed.

Until Gray v. Sanders, one man, one vote was not the law of the land.

Until Lawrence v. Texas, gays (and straights as well) could be prosecuted for engaging in consensual sex acts.

Justice Kagan is 50 years old and has a lifetime appointment. Justice John Paul Stevens whom she replaced retired at age 90. She may very well be on the Court for the next 20, 30, or even 40 years.

THAT is why it is important.

With regard to the letter from Hagan, any elected official who doesn't respond to a constituent's concerns within a reasonable period of time is treating him or her with disrespect.

The late Senator Jesse Helms, love him or hate him, was well known for responding to constituent concerns very quickly. Liddy Dole, who was defeated by Kay Hagan, did a decent job at responding to my letters, calls, or emails. Even the philandering John Edwards wasn't too slow in his response. I have been appalled from the start by how lightly Kay Hagan treats responding to constituent letters and emails sharing their concerns.

With modern computers and software, not to mention their franking privilege (or free postage), there simply is no excuse for it to take months to receive a reply from a Senator or Congressman. The form letter or email with canned talking points is better than waiting months and months for any response. It is a matter of simple courtesy and respect for the people of their state or district as well as an acknowledgment of their concerns.

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