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de Vos: Full court press

Jon de Vos
The Friday Report
Jon DeVos
Staff Photo |

Justice Scalia had hardly grown cold before the rhetoric about his replacement got hot. Congressional Republicans are infuriated at the nerve of a president who would put forth some sad scapegoat for them to waterboard until the election is over.

Conservatives are understandably nervous about the possibility of losing the 5 to 4 advantage they’ve enjoyed for decades. They’re so upset by the possibility of a liberal tilt to the Court that they’ve completely suspended their relentless, grueling routine of accomplishing nothing, to totally wrap their arms around Donald Trump’s advice to “delay, delay, delay”.

Hmm, if you delay doing nothing, isn’t that like a double negative? For instance, if you “ain’t doing nothing,” you’re actually doing something, right? Maybe Congress is busy working behind closed doors on a gas tax, secretly planning on spending a few bucks on the infrastructure and actually putting people back to work . . . maybe, I said.

Worried about how Scalia’s untimely demise will impact future Supreme Court decisions? Well, if the past is any predictor of the future, you should be. There have been some decided stinkers. Scott v. Sandford was probably the worst.

In 1807, Missouri territorial statutes allowed persons who were held in wrongful servitude to sue in court for their freedom. One case, Winny v. Whitesides, decided that when a slave owner took their slaves and established residence in free territory, the slaves themselves would then be free. The policy was known as “once free, always free,” even if they returned to slave territory. Several “freedom suits” followed and several blacks were emancipated to the horror of white slavers.

Dred Scott was owned by an Army surgeon who, in 1834, moved from Missouri, a slave state, to the free state of Illinois and later on to free Wisconsin Territory. After a decade, he returned to Missouri, still a slave state. When the doctor died in 1846, Dred Scott sued to get his freedom in what should have been a routine matter.

But it wasn’t. Appeals by the surgeon’s heirs kept sending his case to higher levels. A decade later in 1856, Scott v. Sandford reached the U.S. Supreme Court

In March of 1857, the Court decided 7-2 against Scott. The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice Roger Taney but it sounds like it comes from the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. It states that blacks were not, and never could be citizens of the United States because they were of an inferior order. In fact, they were so far inferior that they had no rights that the white man was bound to respect. Seven Supreme Court justices ruled that Negro’s were altogether unfit to associate with whites and it was to their benefit to be enslaved. They decided Scott was not a citizen and had no standing to sue in federal court.

Still they weren’t done. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 allowed Missouri to come into the union as a slave state but halted any further expansion of slavery. The Dred Scott decision also declared the Compromise unconstitutional, reopening the doors to slavery in the west.

That decision fueled the fires of racial hatred, already smoldering across the country and many historians state that it led directly into the Civil War.

In 1868, a bloodied nation ended slavery with the passage of the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing citizenship to all. Even so, the amendment was so bitterly contested that several southern states were denied representation in Congress until they ratified it.

On average, Supreme Court justice nominees have been approved, rejected or withdrawn within 25 days. The longest confirmation ever, at 125 days, was Louis Brandeis in 1916. President Obama has over 300 more days in office.

It’ll be amusing, a bit sad, but nonetheless still amusing, to watch the Beltway Buffoons in action on this one.


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