Kavanaugh Nomination Erodes Supreme Court’s Legitimacy

Building of the United States Supreme Court in Washington DC, June 12, 2014
Building of the United States Supreme Court in Washington DC, June 12, 2014 (Wikimedia Commons/Laura Choate)

Republicans’ determination to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court marks an escalation of the politicization of the judiciary in the United States.

Kavanaugh faces unanimous opposition from Democrats due to allegations of sexual assault, his extreme views on presidential power (Kavanaugh does not believe a sitting president can be indicted or tried) and his partisanship. Read more

Why Republicans Are In a Hurry to Put Kavanaugh on Supreme Court

Building of the United States Supreme Court in Washington DC, January 29, 2008
Building of the United States Supreme Court in Washington DC, January 29, 2008 (Tabitha Kaylee Hawk)

Brett Kavanaugh has been accused of attempting to rape a young woman in prep school and Democrats have been denied the chance to read tens of thousands of documents from his time as a lawyer in the George W. Bush Administration. Yet Republicans are rushing to confirm his nomination.

Why? Because they worry this may be their last chance to defend their majority on the Supreme Court. Read more

Law and Justice Continues Anti-Judicial Crusade

An anti-goverment demonstrations in Warsaw, Poland, February 27, 2016
An anti-goverment demonstrations in Warsaw, Poland, February 27, 2016 (Jaap Arriens)

There have been two developments this week in the attempts of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party to subject the judiciary to political control:

  1. The Senate approved legislation that makes it possible for the government to appoint the next Supreme Court chief justice.
  2. The European Court of Justice ruled that other EU countries can refuse extradition requests from Poland if they fear suspects may not receive a fair trial there. Read more

America’s Supreme Court Has Become Too Powerful

Building of the United States Supreme Court in Washington DC, June 12, 2014
Building of the United States Supreme Court in Washington DC, June 12, 2014 (Wikimedia Commons/Laura Choate)

Ezra Klein makes an excellent point in Vox: the stakes of Supreme Court nominations in America are too high.

Candidates serve for life — which, given modern life spans and youthful nominees, can now mean forty years of decisions — and no one knows when the next seat will open.

No other democracy in the world allows judges to serve for life. And in no other democracy is the process of appointing high-court judges so broken. Read more

Polish Ruling Party Forces Through Reforms to Defang Supreme Court

Polish prime minister Beata Szydło speaks with members of her cabinet in parliament in Warsaw, January 29, 2016
Polish prime minister Beata Szydło speaks with members of her cabinet in parliament in Warsaw, January 29, 2016 (PiS)

Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice party is forcing through judicial reforms that the Supreme Court’s president, Małgorzata Gesdorf, has said would “end” the Supreme Court and “break” the Constitution.

The changes are expected to be enacted next week after a parliamentary committee voted for the legislation on Thursday.

During a hearing, lawmakers from the ruling party rejected all amendments from the opposition, refused to hear independent legal counsel and ignored warnings from parliament’s own lawyers, who said the reforms might be unconstitutional.

Grzegorz Schetyna, the leader of the opposition Civic Platform, has called for demonstrations in the streets.

“This is no longer a creeping coup,” he told Polish television. “This coup begins to strike.” Read more

“For My Friends, Anything. For My Enemies, the Law.”

The "Yankee caudillo" Donald Trump
The “Yankee caudillo” Donald Trump (The Washington Post)

Donald Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff who was found guilty last month of criminal contempt of court, reminds me of that adage of South American dictators: “For my friends, anything. For my enemies, the law.”

The president can grant clemency to anyone, but Trump’s predecessors used this power carefully.

David Frum writes in The Atlantic that Barack Obama only issued his first round of pardons two years into his presidency. George W. Bush waited until May 2004, six months before his reelection.

Trump, by contrast, appears to have put no formal deliberation into Arpaio’s pardon. He didn’t even wait until the former sheriff could be sentenced! Read more

Duda Hasn’t Stopped Law and Justice from Subjugating Poland’s Courts

Polish president Andrzej Duda answers questions from reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, January 18, 2016
Polish president Andrzej Duda answers questions from reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, January 18, 2016 (NATO)

Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, has surprised observers by vetoing legislation from his own Law and Justice party that would have defanged the judiciary.

Closer scrutiny suggests Duda’s opposition is less meaningful than it is made out to be, though.

The president has said he will sign the bills if they are amended and Leonid Bershidsky argues at Bloomberg View that his proposed changes don’t deviate from the legislation’s objective: “to put the judiciary, which the party argues has turned into an elitist caste, under more political control.” Read more