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Will judicial review ditch the blindfold?

Politics will increasingly guide future Supreme Court decisions.

By Mark Weisenmiller
Published May 20, 2007


Martin Garbus, a lawyer who specializes in First Amendment cases, has represented such dissidents as Vaclav Havel, Nelson Mandela and Andrei Sakharov; his newest celebrity client is Don Imus. Internationally respected for his legal acumen, Garbus has helped to write the constitutions and media laws of China, Czechoslovakia, Russia and Rwanda.

He has also argued cases before the Supreme Court, so what he has to say about its future in The Next 25 Years is based on personal knowledge as well as research. He predicts a grim future for Americans, based on what he perceives as the court's extreme conservatism.

Garbus believes that recent decisions are based not just on legal precedent but on the social, economic and political values of the conservative members. This is nothing new - since the days of John Jay, the first chief justice, people have believed Supreme Court decisions were based on political beliefs - but Garbus presents the extent to which the Roberts Court is doing so.

As one may suspect, Garbus does not have good things to say about the Supreme Court's handling of Bush vs. Gore, the controversial case in which the court decided the winner of the 2000 presidential election, or the decision's aftermath.

Garbus creates doom-and-gloom scenarios for laws made by conservative jurists, but he seems to forget a unique characteristic of the American people: If government makes bad law, they sometimes simply ignore it. Case in point: Prohibition.

One wonders why Garbus assumes that the next president will tolerate the bad laws he believes were created by the Rehnquist and Roberts courts and not act to change them. Garbus lays some legal and philosophical traps for the reader, and he also shows us the times.

Mark Weisenmiller is a correspondent for Inter Press Service and a contributor to the Economist.

 

The Next 25 Years: The New Supreme Court and What It Means For Americans

By Martin Garbus

Seven Stories Press, 256 pages, $21