Let the world change you... and you can change the world

Putting Our Legal System To The Test

The two stories that are dominating the headlines these days — the Supreme Court hearing on so-called “Obamacare” and the Trayvon Martin case — are going to tell us a lot about the current state of our legal system.  I’ve always been amused at right-wing rantings about “activist judges”.  The law these days — heck, it’s probably been this way since the beginning of time — is so complex that even the simplest of laws can be interpreted in any number of ways.  So ultimately any time a judge makes any kind of ruling, they are applying their personal values to the ruling and thus are being “activists”.  There’s no such thing as a “passive” judicial ruling.  That’s absurd.

So ultimately the decision on Obamacare is going to come down to whether or not SCOTUS thinks that all Americans should have access to decent health care.  Both liberals and conservatives make excellent arguments about the legality of the Obama health care act, so all the legal mumbo-jumbo is irrelevant.  The justices are going to pick the argument that jives with their political leanings and then use whatever legalese they see fit to justify that decision — which is, in fact, a very simple one. If you believe that the United States, the wealthiest country in the world, should be like every other developed country and guarantee adequate health care for all citizens, you find Obamacare legal.  If you think only the wealthiest citizens should have health care, you strike it down.  And given the right-wing “Let them eat cake” leanings of the majority of the Justices, I’m guessing Obamacare will get struck down.

What ends up happening in the Trayvon Martin case at this point is anybody’s guess.  The obvious problem that few people seem to grasp so far is that the local law enforcement botched the investigation so badly that there appears to not be enough forensic evidence for anyone to be able to determine what really happened.  Letting this George Zimmerman go scot-free would be a travesty for sure.  But then convicting him of murder with what evidence there currently is would also be highly questionable.  I’m afraid there will be nothing even close to a decent outcome here.  It’s a lose-lose situation if I’ve ever seen one.

The real culprit in this case, though, is this ridiculous “Stand Your Ground” law.  If any good is to become of this tragedy, every single one of these laws will be stricken down by courts everywhere.  Basically what these laws say are that if you feel threatened by anyone, you can kill that person without any recourse.  As we are currently seeing, for many people just the fact that someone is wearing a “hoodie” makes that person threatening, and thus makes it OK for you to kill that person.  Think that’s an exaggeration?  Again, we’re back to the fact that judges are always interpreting the law as their morals and ethics see fit.  And as we are seeing in the news right now, lots of people are saying Zimmerman was justified for shooting Martin under the “Stand Your Ground” law.  And the only thing threatening about Martin was his appearance.  What makes this any different than the lynchings that were so common in the South after the Civil War and up to the middle of the 20th century?  It’s all pretty simple — “Stand Your Ground” laws equate to legalizing lynchings.  Hopefully we as a society are beyond that.

Update: On her show tonight, Rachel Maddow echoed exactly what I am saying about our legal system.  But being smarter than I am, she used the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case of 2000 as the prime example.  And of course, that proves the point better than any other example — that case was a 100% pure political judgment that had nothing whatsoever to do with the law.  And then the exclamation point to the argument came with the Citizens United decision.  Our court system is just as political as Congress is.  The actual laws are irrelevant.