Saturday, February 17, 2007

Courting the Supremes: Justice Roberts' big chance to go down in history one way or the other...

I attended a big fancy dinner last night -- one of those lavish affairs at the local country club where everyone is wearing a suit -- except for me. And they served salmon! And baby potatoes with wine sauce. And raspberries with crème brûlée! But I digress. What was the occasion? One of our most prominent and respected judges was retiring and all the best legal minds in the area were there to send him off. And me too.

Towards the end of the banquet -- best decaf coffee I've ever tasted -- the retiring judge gave a speech, outlining some of his impressions regarding what the future held in store for our American judicial system. But first he set the groundwork for exploring what might come next by talking about the various cases ruled on by the Supreme Court in the past several months. And hearing him describe all the weird goings-on being reviewed by the Supremes suddenly made me really, really jealous! Good grief! Those nine justices were up there in Washington DC, just WALLOWING in hot gossip! I wanna become a Supreme Court justice! I wanna be in on all the latest information. Those cases are better than Oprah!

The judge described cases about drug smuggling, wife beating, insanity, DNA evidence, Guantanamo stuff, stuff that happens in prisons, campaign bribes, illegal search and seizure, victim remorse, combative attorneys, sex and violence, a church-going murderer, Tom Delay and even Anna Nicole Smith! It doesn't get much juicier than that!

Then the judge got down to brass tacks. "What do I see in store for America's judicial system? Frankly, things could go either way. Currently Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appears to be doing everything that he can to have an emergency judicial system ready in case we have another 9-11. Does he know something the rest of us don't know? He's already got all the gears in motion in case of a second and even a third attack." That's scary.

"As things stand now, our judicial system and our country are in trouble, deeper than even Bush is responsible for. I don't think even he and his little bunch of neo-cons had planned this far ahead regarding the systematic and detailed attacks on our civil rights and our Constitution that are happening now. These things have been in the works for years; probably even decades. Trust me. Things are bad now. And they are going to get even worse." Wow.

"So. Is there any hope that a Constitutional democracy will survive in America? Yes. I still hold out hope that the Supreme Court will step up to the plate even if no one else does. And I don't think it will be the more liberal judges on the Supreme Court who will save us. It will be the conservative judges that will save us. Right now, it looks like Justice Alito could be the one to finally be conservative enough to want to preserve the Constitution. But I'm also thinking that maybe with Chief Justice Roberts guiding the Court, there is still the possibility that he will...." Will what? The waiter had just brought the dessert and I got distracted!

"What did he SAY?" I asked the lawyer on my right.

"Something about Chief Justice Roberts rising to the task. That because this is such a turning point in our nation, that Roberts could possibly become one of those legendary Chief Justices whose knowledge and wisdom guide this great nation though the greatest legal crisis in our history."

Let us hope so.

PS: I purposely didn't mention this judge's name here. I certainly don't mean to plagiarize his ideas on the one hand and I feel bad about that. But on the other hand, I don't want the poor fellow carted off to Guantanamo either!