I live far from Washington DC, and my practice in law has never required me to bring a matter before SCOTUS. So, for me, membership in the SCOTUS bar would be a bauble, a nice certificate to add to my office wall.
I used to consider the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to be an institution with honor and integrity.
I no longer hold that opinion.
I used to believe that a case before SCOTUS would be decided using clear logic, established precedent, and prudence.
I no longer hold that opinion.
Every now and then I ask myself “Should I petition to become a member of the United States Supreme Court Bar?”
But now I add a second question: “Do I want to debase myself by asking for admission to an institution that is no longer worthy of respect?”
I’ve tried to live my life as an honorable and ethical person.
I have tried to avoid associating myself with those who are dishonest or corrupt.
For that reason I will not be joining the SCOTUS Bar.
I began my legal career having great faith and trust in the United States Supreme Court. I read their opinions with interest and a willingness to accept the logic and reasoning as the product of open minds who have examined the case, heard the arguments, and exercised care and intelligence as they arrived at their conclusions.
Then I listened to the confirmation of Clarence Thomas in 1991. I was appalled. I heard a nominee who was willing to subordinate the Constitution of the United States to inchoate and boundlessly flexible notions of self-declared “natural law”.
At first the abandonment of SCOTUS’ integrity was small in scale and slow of pace. But that changed as the court increasingly began to replace facts and logic with fables, privately held values, and tribal religiosity.
For much of the two and a quarter centuries of its existence, SCOTUS has been an institution with integrity. I might disagree with some of its opinions; but I have felt that the Justices arrived at their decisions without corruption, without political or financial purposes, and without exultation of religion.
That time has ended.
Over the years SCOTUS has at time wobbled into swamps, going far beyond merely applying and interpreting law to adjudicate cases and controversies. Sometimes SCOTUS issued decisions that were like Papal Bulls declaring national doctrine. In those decisions SCOTUS no longer called balls and strikes; SCOTUS seemed to prefer to dictate the outcome of the game.
Those decisions are infamous – Dred Scott (1856); Korematsu (1944); the slew of post Civil-War cases that emasculated the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments; Lochner (1905); etc. Sometimes, but not always, the court eventually pulled itself out of its self-created swamp, although it usually took decades.
In those detours from Justice, SCOTUS was usually lured into the quicksand by almost plausible logic and the conservatism of the aging over younger generations rather than by downright corruption.
And sometimes SCOTUS was faced with a legislative policy vacuum. The dilema of the court in such situations can be understood and forgiven.
However, SCOTUS has changed for the worse, for the far worse.
One can not honestly say that the many of the decisions beginning with Bush v Gore (2000), Heller (2008), and Citizens United (2010) are anything but overt political acts, often supported by expressions of magical logic that would embarrass a simpleton, by fantastical fabrications constructed using tailored memories of imagined historical practices, by unprincipled abandonment of entire parts of our Constitution, and by elevation of the religion of a few as a weapon to suppress the freedoms of all.
The court’s decisions of the last few years, ranging from Shelby County (2013) to Dobbs (2022), indicate that the erosion of SCOTUS is accelerating.
This decline in intellectual integrity has been accompanied by a steep decline in the honest and ethical behavior of the justices. It has become normal for justices to omit, mislead, and evade during confirmation hearings. And now several justices carry themselves as Lords Supreme, untouched by normal considerations of conflict of interest, who think nothing of accepting (and not reporting) lavish gifts from interests with past, present, and foreseeable matters before the court.
SCOTUS is no longer an institution with honor or integrity.
SCOTUS’ decline is more than mere “appearance”.
SCOTUS' decline is fact.
The court has replaced its historical intellectual honesty with selective, goal-oriented, tribal pseudo-logic. The enormous increase in shadow docket decisions, lacking both argument and opinions, has further eroded faith in the court. The moral integrity of the Justices is dissolving in a marinade of apparent corruption and pantomimed ethical standards.
I choose not to associate myself with the withering idol that SCOTUS has made of itself.
I will not allow SCOTUS to use my integrity, my honor, to cover its own self-inflicted decay.