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Before Voicing an Opinion on the SCOTUS Decisions, Ask a Lawyer

The Unites States system of law is based on the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights and other amendments, statutes, and the common law. The common law, despite some uninformed websites equating it to something called "natural law", just means it is where cases are decided, appealed, and then those appellate court cases (and the Supreme Court is the highest appellate court in the land) then become the law and are used to apply the law to facts in future cases.

This past week, following the decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS for short) many people, politicians and real people alike, blathering about the Supreme Court "making law" and how that is not their job. Unfortunately, most of those people are either lying or don't know how the system works. I can assure you that most of them don't understand the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

I am not fond of the SCOTUS since Roberts became Chief Justice (and therefore it is known as the Roberts court). It's not because they make decisions I disagree with, that's not unusual for anyone with a legal background when reviewing the decisions of any court of appeals. My problem has been that the conservative block of the court has been intellectually dishonest in some of their rulings, willing to ignore precedent or "stare decisis" (well established law) to reach a particular result they seek to achieve. Justice Scalia, in particular, has been willing to wholesale ignore prior decisions of the court and even misrepresent what those decisions actually said in order to further his agenda. His dissents in the two cases last week, King and Obergefell, the ACA case and the "gay marriage" case being so ridiculous as to earn him the Dumbass of the Week award.

The Citizens United case was just one of many cases that they decided where they ignored their intellectual imperatives and disgraced the traditions of the court in order to achieve a business oriented (directed?) result they wanted.

However, many of their other cases where I disagreed with the result, I think they were acting well within their powers, maintained the dignity of the court (mostly) and followed what I believe they think was the correct legal doctrine. A good example of this was the Michigan v. EPA case also decided last week and where the majority opinion was written by Justice Scalia. Wrong decision from my point of view, but correct decision from his legal reasoning so I can't complain.

Because what needs to be looked at in deciding whether the Supreme Court of the United States is doing its job correctly is not whether they reach decisions we like, but whether they reach those decisions in a correct manner.

Most, if not all, of the Republican candidates currently running for office decried the Obergefell decision as the Supreme Court "making law", some calling for their impeachment and others espousing the position that a Justice of the Supreme Court should be an elected position. That remark from Ted Cruz almost earned him an award and a step up from the  Dumbass of the Week to the Asshole of the Month since a graduate of Harvard Law School should, and does, know better.

This was a long winded and roundabout way to get back to my original point, the decisions in both King and Obergefell were both legally and methodically correct.

In King, the lawsuit was a "make believe" one created in the mind of a conservative attorney and brought using set up clients who may not even have qualified as plaintiffs due to a variety of reasons but rather than just dismiss the case and wait for another one to come up that had the same issues, SCOTUS decided to settle matters for the millions of people worried about whether or not they would have insurance.

The court was trying to interpret 5 words out of a huge document. The central issue was whether the ACA was going to apply in every state or only ones that set up their own healthcare exchanges. When a statute appears to be ambiguous or conflicts with itself then the court has to decide what the intent of the legislature was when the statute was created. In the case of the ACA/Obamacare, the legislators made it clear the intent was to provide a nationwide method for everyone to have health insurance. Every other part of the legislation made that clear as well as the statements, the records of the hearings, and all of the other evidence. 

To be intellectually honest, SCOTUS had to decide the case they way it did, and it was a correct ruling because their ruling didn't "make law" it simply made clear what the legislature said it was trying to do. Although Justice Scalia's dissent seems to have forgotten it, in an earlier opinion he had even repeatedly referenced the fact that the ACA was meant to be a nationwide method of providing insurance for everyone.

This was an easy one.

In Obergefell, the court basically said equal protection means equal protection. Gay people do not get less rights than straight people simply because they are gay. While conservatives quickly began losing their minds over this and decrying the court "making law" and "legislating from the bench", something they didn't mind as long as it was a decision they agreed with, the court again ruled correctly. The court didn't actually write a law saying "gay marriage is legal". What the majority did is say that no governmental entity can write a law saying that a gay couple is not allowed to be issued a marriage license by a government official or to get married. They have the same rights as a straight couple. If a state did have a law in place making it illegal, as many did, then that law was a violation of the Constitution.

SCOTUS didn't, and won't, say that all churches have to allow gay marriages. It didn't, and won't, say that all religious officials must marry gay couples if asked. There is, and always should be, a separation of church and state in the United States of America and that is for the protection of both the church and the government because each has the power to destroy the other.

That's why for a court clerk, a governmental employee, to refuse to provide a marriage license to a gay couple and claim it violates their religious freedom is wrong. If a part of their job as clerk is to provide marriage licenses then they must be able to perform that function. If not, then they should find another job.

Any lawyer who isn't pandering to one side or the other can look at both of these cases and tell you that they were decided not only correctly but in keeping with the tradition of the court and what is expected of them. If they tell you differently they are either lying or not very smart, or both.






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