Blazing Through All Precedents - Poem by gershon hepner
Blazing through all precedents,
Supreme Court Justices have customarily abused
omnipotence until as decedents
they are compelled by death, an act of God, to be recused.
Of corporate money there’s no dearth
in politics, said John Paul Stevens, arguing in dissent;
decisions with some moral worth
are lacking in the Highest Court, should have been his lament.
Inspired by a comment by Justice John Paul Stevens, cited by Adam Liptak in an article on him in the NYT, January 25,2010 (“After 34 Years, a Plainspoken Justice Gets Louder”) :
The Supreme Court announced its big campaign finance decision at 10 in the morning last Thursday. By 10: 30 a.m., after Justice Anthony M. Kennedy had offered a brisk summary of the majority opinion and Justice John Paul Stevens labored through a 20-minute rebuttal, a sort of twilight had settled over the courtroom. It seemed the Stevens era was ending. Justice Stevens, who will turn 90 in April, joined the court in 1975 and is the longest-serving current justice by more than a decade. He has given signals that he intends to retire at the end of this term, and his dissent on Thursday was shot through with disappointment, frustration and uncharacteristic sarcasm.He seemed weary, and more than once he stumbled over and mispronounced ordinary words in the lawyer’s lexicon — corruption, corporation, allegation. Sometimes he would take a second or third run at the word, sometimes not. But there was no mistaking his basic message. “The rule announced today — that Congress must treat corporations exactly like human speakers in the political realm — represents a radical change in the law, ” he said from the bench. “The court’s decision is at war with the views of generations of Americans.”..
“It is difficult to convey how thoroughly egregious counsel’s closing argument was, ” Justice Stevens wrote of a defense lawyer’s work. “Suffice it to say that the argument shares far more in common with a prosecutor’s closing than with a criminal defense attorney’s. Indeed, the argument was so outrageous that it would have rightly subjected a prosecutor to charges of misconduct.” In the second case, Justice Stevens did vote to uphold the death sentence, saying that even a closing argument worthy of Clarence Darrow would not have spared the defendant. That carefully calibrated distinction was of a piece with the view he announced in 2008 in Baze v. Rees, when he said he had come to the conclusion that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment. But he went on to say that his conclusion did not justify “a refusal to respect precedents that remain a part of our law.”
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