Monday, February 13, 2006

BreakPoint | Is the Supreme Court Really Supreme?

Not when the Court itself violates the Constitution.

Charles Colson analyzes the case of Scott v. Sandford (that's "Scott" as in "Dred")--and, more to the point, Abraham Lincoln's refusal to recognize that as valid law. I have analyzed Scott in detail--or as much detail as a non-lawyer can bring to bear--and I can tell you that the Court violated every rule in the book with that case. For those of you who didn't hear the details in your history class, Dred Scott had traveled, in the company of his master, into a territory that, according to the Missouri Compromise, was free territory--free as in that anyone who set foot in that territory would be a free man. This is what anyone would normally assume--bring a slave into a land where slavery is not valid, and that person is a slave no more. Period.

But Roger B. Taney didn't see it that way. He threw out the entire Missouri Compromise and, in essence, declared that Dred Scott must remain a slave because he was the son of slaves. Taney did everything but issue a bald-faced declaration that blacks were genetically inferior--a thing for which the Bible has absolutely no warrant whatsoever, and more to the point, a thing for which the Constitution had no warrant, either.

Bottom line: the Supreme Court blew it. And their mistake caused a war and a lot of bitter feelings that continue to linger.

So what did Honest Abe do? Well, we all remember him for fighting a war. But more to the point, he made no attempt to follow the Court's decision in Scott. He behaved, and conducted his office, as though the Court had decided the other way.

Nor was he the first President to kick sand into the Supreme Court's face. Andrew Jackson earned that honor when he said, "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it."

Now we can hope that Bush will put a stop to this sort of behavior by naming another member of the Roberts-Alito team to the Court. We can further hope that no President will have to go to civil war to repair a broken Court precedent--nor am I advocating a shooting war in such an event. But we have the precedents of Lincoln, and better than that, Jackson as our guide to whether the Supreme Court is really all that Supreme.


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