What Could President Trump Do To The Supreme Court?
November 18, 2016 (Fault Lines) – Ever wonder how to determine the issues of the day? Why, check the Internet, of course. In the past, if you wanted to know what was going on in the world, you had to get your news one of two ways. Either wait until your grandparents poured a scotch and soda and turned on the nightly news, or read a newspaper.
Now every asshole with a laptop is “the news.” So, the issues important to us shift on a constant basis, untethered from facts or research. In that light, my Facebook feed tells me the Supreme Court of the United States is in real trouble. Apparently, President-elect Donald Trump could appoint some nutjob to the Court, destroying our freedoms.
As a disclaimer, I am well aware of what is important to this country, and how that was discussed during the presidential campaign. The righties are always concerned that some hippy-dippy judge will take away their guns. And the lefties are always worried some evangelical former television preacher turned Supreme Court justice will say no more abortions.
But, surprisingly, it turns out the Supreme Court does a whole lot more than worry about your guns and your abortions. Putting aside those two issues, what parade of horribles could Trump trigger when he nominates a Supreme Court justice?
The right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure is a good idea. The whole point of that one was to keep people “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects…” That seems like a really good right. One we would hate to lose.
Imagine if that right was weakened. For example, what if the Supreme Court were to hold that an unconstitutional stop is totally fine, as long as the police end up finding something? Wouldn’t that kill the premise of the Fourth Amendment? If you can justify an unconstitutional stop, why not go for it? Especially if the Court will back you up.
We don’t need to imagine what that would look like, because it already happened. Utah v. Strieff. In a 5-3 vote, the Supreme Court said “no problem” to the police, yet again.
Or maybe you are concerned that a Trump-nominated justice could allow police free rein to make shit up. Trump’s sinister appointment could result in the police being allowed to stop people based on a complete misunderstanding of the law, as long as they had some reason for being wrong. Because why should a law enforcement officer actually have to know the law?
Already happened. Heien v. North Carolina. 8 to 1 vote that time. No Trump justice needed.
Maybe search and seizure is already all jacked up, and there is nothing we can do about it. That’s not the only thing the Supreme Court considers, either. What about the Great Writ? The right to federal habeas review is pretty damn important. Maybe Trump and his justices are going to get ahold of that right and destroy it, dooming the innocent to the mercy of an assembly-line state justice system.
Imagine a Trump justice selling us the song that habeas was just a big waste of time. You can’t bring up new evidence in a federal habeas case. Or get a hearing. And prosecutors never lie. Defense attorneys are always competent. State courts are bastions of thoughtful justice.
Already done. Congress, the (*gasp*) Clintons, and the Supreme Court teamed up on this one to make sure Thomas Jefferson’s Great Writ is a useless stop on the bus route to prison. Or death.
Even district court judges are cool with the race to prison that habeas apparently shouldn’t slow down, much less stop. In Cullen v. Pinholster, a 7-2 Supreme Court was happy to say there is no need for any real review of a state court conviction. Because it’s a conviction, so screw ‘em.
I get it. Those are just rights that belong to degenerate criminals. Nobody cares about them.
What about the police? Trump said he is going to back the police, so what if his justice just lets the police do whatever they want, shooting us and whatnot?
Imagine if a cowboy cop pulled out his trusty rifle and popped some guy in a chase for the hell of it. Not because there was any danger, but because a cop wanted to “proactively” end an incident by imposing a one-man sentence for a police chase.
Now there is a problem, right? I bet that damn Trump justice would let the police get away with it. Well, he or she would just be following previous precedent. Mullenix v. Luna. 8-1 vote said you can’t sue the police, which is the equivalent of giving them a hunting license and you are the prey.
Here is the problem. For years, the Supreme Court has been quietly weakening rights and encroaching on our personal freedoms. But most of the country doesn’t care. Because caring would require a great deal of boring research. You would have to pay attention on a daily basis to the cases that are both going to the Supreme Court, pending in the Supreme Court, and are decided by the Supreme Court.
Then you would need to do more than just read what your chosen asshole-with-a-laptop news source says about those opinions. You would need to think deeply about what the opinions say and what they mean.
You would also need to shut the hell up for a second. All the bitching and moaning is annoying to people who are actually stakeholders in the system. Sorry your gun rights or abortion rights are in jeopardy or not in jeopardy or whatever.
But look a guy in the eyes right after the cops lied at his suppression hearing and the judge said “Fourth Whatever he seems guilty.” Tell him he has to eat two decades in prison while you pray an appellate court appointed in a political battle over something has the balls to do the right thing.
So keep on posting stupid shit on your Facebook page about your fear for the future of the Supreme Court. You’re a few decades late to that pity party. Maybe you didn’t care because it wasn’t affecting you. But it was damn sure affecting somebody.