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Time for justice for the justices

Ronald Mitchell
Time for justice  for the justices
“Let’s help ourselves instead of the country.”

With the current temperature in our country, it is imperative that we have a judicial system that is above reproach, but unfortunately, because our judicial system is made up of humans, that’s not always possible. Here in the United States, the Supreme Court, the highest court in our land, is supposed to represent neutrality and fairness.  The Supreme Court is supposed to take on the longstanding issues in our country with a balanced approach. The ultimate court is supposed to help adjudicate the most complicated issues that affect all Americans. From the beginning, judges on the Supreme Court have always been reflective of the society in which they govern, with many of the decisions they made at the time later being judged as racist or unfair later as our society progressed.

In the mid-to-late 20th century, the Supreme Court seemed to be guided by that principle that equality and justice was more important than public opinion through a series of decisions that helped shape a fairer and more just America. It helped move the needle forward for civil rights at a time when it was an afterthought for much of the nation.

However, in the past few years the court has been packed with right wing justices who refer to themselves as originalists, but who can more aptly be described as far rightwing ideologs.

Historically, the Supreme Court has always had a diversity of views, but more recently due to the Republican Congress blocking President Obama’s Supreme Court nominations, we have ended up with an extremely imbalanced court. Some might say that our country is imbalanced so therefore there is going to be imbalance on the court. That might be true, however, one could argue that the imbalance is influenced by outside factors. Many of our justices have been exhibiting signs of impropriety at best and outright payola taking at worst. In many cases they have taken excess gifts that can be naturally interpreted as payoffs to support their benefactors’ existing views.

When we look at this phenomenon, there’s no justice that is more guilty of this than Justice Thomas. He has been the recipient of over a million dollars in gifts, so numerous it will be hard to mention them all in the space I have allotted for this piece. Many of the gifts he received came from Harlan Crow, his billionaire benefactor. The gifts included paying off the mortgage to a house, multiple private plane and yachting trips, as well as an RV.  And all of this might seem to be par for the course except it’s not. Historically, the Supreme Court would never have taken millions of dollars in benefits and then compounded the problem by refusing to claim those benefits on the legal disclosure documents that justices are required to file. It was only until this past week that Justice Thomas revealed, in two updated reports, that he received all these benefits over the past five to seven years.

And to add insult to injury, he has also refused to recuse himself on all cases related to the attempted coup, even though his wife was a key planner in Donald Trump’s attempt to overthrow a free and fair election.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Thomas, an African American who grew up struggling with many of the same challenges that other African Americans in our country face, seems to have forgotten what that life was like.

Justice Thomas benefited from affirmative action, the very thing he voted against upholding. As we examine Justice Thomas’ voting history, it seems that he’s under the illusion that just because society should be colorblind his rulings don’t have to be based on the reality in which we live or be judged by the consequences they create.

Being a Black person, it is hard for me to understand someone rising to the level of success that Justice Thomas has had and not realizing he did it on the backs of all the other Black and brown people who came before him and fought so hard to secure the rights he takes for granted. It seems shocking to me that he could turn his back on his own people and provide rulings that are so detrimental to our success and society as a whole. Civil rights, women’s rights, working rights — Justice Thomas has thrown all of that out the window so that he can assimilate and be like his billionaire friends.  Receiving all the benefits from them upholding their views seems to be a sad legacy for the Black Supreme Court Justice who replaced the legendary Thurgood Marshall.  He spent his whole career doing the exact opposite of Justice Thomas, fighting for true justice not just for Black people, but for all people.

Today, when we look to the Supreme Court, we see a court that does not reflect our society. We see a court disentailing decades of progress for the benefit of billionaires and corporations, which is very scary.  We should rectify this as soon as possible either by requiring justices to recuse themselves on cases where personal bias exists or make sure the Supreme Court justices reflect the views and needs of all American people, not just the billionaires who can pay to influence their opinions.