Op-Ed: Justice isn’t solely determined by the Supreme Court

Joseph Goeken, Contributor

Editors note: This is an Op-Ed submission. Opinions expressed are solely of the writer and do not express the views or opinions of The Echo. All students at California Lutheran University are invited to submit Op-Eds.


I think in the world we live in nowadays, that’s a word too often forgotten.

I, myself, am guilty of it at times.

And I write today of a topic that I think exemplifies my point: the Supreme Court.

Now you might think, what could an undergraduate mathematics student like myself possibly offer on a topic that vexes even the most astute of legal minds?

Perhaps nothing. But I’d certainly like to try.

You see, how the average individual views the Supreme Court is a bit of a paradox to me.

Gallup has tracked public opinion of the jurists for past half-century, and the vast majority of Americans trust the Supreme Court.

In this day and age, the fact that any government institution is liked, let alone trusted, by a majority of the public is remarkable.

Yet, nearly every time in recent history a seat opens up, one would be forgiven in thinking that President Lincoln just sent troops to reinforce Fort Sumter.

A vacancy on the bench has become an invitation to wage all-out political warfare.

What used to be an academic exercise in legal minutia, a confirmation hearing has become many women’s worst fear.

The recent passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has only accelerated this trend.

And while this problem may be complex, even alarming, the solution is not.

To those in power and those who have politicized the bench: the Supreme Court is not your personal property.

Neither is the existence nor the composition of the judiciary that occurs at the pleasure of the Legislature.

True, the president is empowered to nominate a candidate and the Senate provide advice and consent.

But the incumbent president and today’s Senate have together so drastically altered the meaning of ‘advice and consent’ that well-qualified nominees are blatantly ignored and others, while less qualified, are rubber-stamped.

And for reason no other than to attempt to predetermine the Supreme Court’s opinions.

I am frustrated, as I’m sure many are.

Every time a justice dies or resigns, it seems that many of our hard-fought constitutional rights are put in jeopardy. But, to engage in the same process that led to this situation is not the answer.

Expanding the Supreme Court’s numbers, as some have suggested, will do little to entrench its legitimacy or ensure safe access to abortion.

Rather, what I ask of each and every American is to reevaluate your perception of the Supreme Court’s role.

It is not by some wizardry behind a curtain which rulings are made.

They are rooted in logic and fact. It is, indeed, “emphatically the duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.”

No more and no less.

It is precisely for this reason that I am optimistic of the future.

I know in my heart, despite what any politician may say, equal justice under law shall prevail.

Be thoughtful. Be kind. And say hello every once in a while.