I saw a disturbing headline in The State the other day: “SC Supreme Court makeup may face GOP scrutiny after abortion ban struck down.”
I didn’t have time to read it at that time, so I emailed the story to myself, intending to write about it when I had time. Of course first, I had to read it.
Fortunately, the story wasn’t as disturbing as the headline. Still, I’m afraid Shane Massey is right in this prediction:
State Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, echoing his statement last week that the court’s “decision will almost certainly result in the politicization of South Carolina’s judges to yet unseen levels,” said Monday he “will be amazed” if there isn’t political pushback over the way the Legislature vets and elects judges to the state’s high court…
Yes, I’m afraid so. Some will see themselves just as justified in making abortion a litmus test for court fitness as U.S. Senators on both sides of the issue have done ever since Roe removed the issue from the place where it should be — the political branches.
Because of what’s happened since 1973, public confidence in the very existence of an independent judiciary has been badly damaged across the political spectrum. And when that confidence is completely gone, we might as well close up this shop called the United States of America. The experiment in a liberal, representative democracy has had an impressively long run, but it would be over at that point.
When candidates’ positions on the most controversial political issue in the land becomes a condition for serving on the bench, it is over. I’ve been pointing this out for years on the federal level. The last 50 years have been pretty ugly.
We don’t need to be engaging in the same madness on the state level. South Carolina has enough problems without that.
I can understand that, after all these years of waiting, and finally seeing SCOTUS give legislatures the power to make the laws again, some lawmakers will be frustrated that another court is overruling them.
But the proper response to that is to work to shape legislation that the court will not dismiss as violating the state constitution. And yes, in this case, the law involved is the state constitution, not the federal.
Interestingly, unlike the federal version, the state constitution actually mentions privacy — it uses the actual word. (We can argue back and forth at another time whether “privacy” means “you can have an abortion if you want one.” But for quite some time, courts have assumed it does. This one certainly has.) Of course, you can try to amend that if you’d like. I expect that would be tougher than passing acceptable statutes, but that’s another legitimate path.
Just don’t pick judges based on whether they agree with you. Agreeing with you is not their job.
Oh, and one more thing: Not only would that approach undermine the rule of law, but it might not even work for you in the short run. I urge you to check out Cindi Scoppe’s latest column, which grows out of the court’s abortion ruling: “How the SC Legislature’s ‘conservative justice’ killed its fetal heartbeat law.”
Oh, and as long as I’m pointing to stuff in the P&C, they have a news story that does what I actually feared the story in The State would do: It quotes lawmakers saying the very things that I dreaded, and which made me cringe at that first headline. This one is headlined, “Abortion ruling brings new scrutiny on the 3 candidates.”
The State‘s story predicted it. The P&C‘s story shows it starting to happen…