Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Next 25 Years: The New Supreme Court and What it Means for AmericansThe Next 25 Years: The New Supreme Court and What it Means for Americans by Martin Garbus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Everybody who cares about the future of the United States of America should read Martin Garbus' book "The Next 25 Years: The New Supreme Court and what it means for Americans" (2007). My chances of being around in 2032 are not good, but I am worrying about my daughter and granddaughter. While the actions of the President of the United States and of the Congress have only short-term effects, the Supreme Court decisions have a long-lasting impact; they affect generations. The Supreme Court decisions define our country.

Mr. Garbus is a famous First Amendment lawyer and a pre-eminent legal historian. His book is unabashedly and virulently anti-conservative. Thus a disclaimer is needed: I am much more of a liberal than a conservative, even if I always attempt to look at issues from various points of view, so my review may be biased by my beliefs.

The book was published in 2007. Justices David Souter and John Paul Stevens were still on the court while Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were yet to be seated. In the book Mr. Garbus makes a convincing case for several theses of which I, as a complete layman, select the following five that have captured my interest the most:
(1) The Rehnquist Court followed by the Roberts Court have been engaged in massive rewriting of the US law established in the 1937-1980 period.
(2) The Court (Rehnquist's and Roberts'), with its conservative majority, has allowed a major increase of the executive branch's power at the expense of the legislative branch, the Congress. Mr. Garbus writes "the Court is now determined to impose its own political preferences over that of elected federal officials."
(3) The Court has allowed the United States to be "defined only by the vision of the majorities". Mr. Garbus rightly says that "majority rule and democracy are not the same thing".
(4) "The five votes today [...] are based more on political power and less on legal reasoning", which - to me - violates the separation of powers principle.
(5) The notion of Justice Kennedy and ex-Justice O'Connor being "swing votes" is a myth; both have always been solidly conservative votes.

Mr. Garbus' book is rich in brilliant observations. I have written down more than twenty "deep thoughts", but for sake of brevity will quote just one here: "As one federal court said 'Of the three fundamental principles which underlie government: [...] the protection of life, liberty, and property, the chief of these is property'"

This is a really scary book. For once, I agree with one of the blurbs on the cover that warns us about "how the [...] bench may imperil our way of life and endanger the liberties you may have thought were our inalienable rights."

The most famous preamble might now as well say "We the rich people..." The poor need not apply for constitutional protection.

Four and a half stars.

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