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Visualizing the Ideological History of SCOTUS

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the you're-just-objectifying-them dept.

The Courts 151

langelgjm writes "An interesting exercise in quantifying and visualizing ideological shifts, the website ScotusScores.com tracks changes in the ideological history of the US Supreme Court from 1937 to 2007. Ideological positions are quantified using Martin-Quinn scores, and the chart highlights the often-bumpy transitions (Thurgood Marshall to Clarence Thomas), as well as tendencies within each Justice's career."

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What about Jews? (-1, Troll)

Luke727 (547923) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385001)

They did 9/11 and we still have no justice :(

Re:What about Jews? (3, Funny)

squiggly12 (1298191) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385419)

LOL forget about that little checkbox called AC?

Re:What about Jews? (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28386031)

Apparently not. Look at his posting history. He repeats this nonsense over and over again.

LK

Building 7 was owned by jew Lary Silverstein. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28386325)

He insured Building 7 for $9 billion exactly 2 weeks before. Building 7 was the 3rd sky-scraper that was DEMOLISHED with the World Trade Center Towers. Building 7 was more important, it housing various offices for U.S. Treasury, IRS, BATF, FBI, CIA, et al. Dirtbag Silverstein even admitted making the decision to "pull it" within 30 minutes of WTC towers going down, all because he believed the minor "fire damage" on the roof made it unstable! Look it up on Youtube while you still can, and look up some of the half-true films produced by Jesuit Alex Jones.

It's too bad James von Brunn isn't around anymore since being mind-controlled into wasting time on some jewbait T.V. distraction from real world events by shooting-up that Life-Insurance Museum. CIA is known to kidnap White Nationalists, re-program them with torture techniques, then unleash their jew-law of the Jungle onto the world with such horror so as to draw such ill-opinion to a scholastic lifestyle of moral integrity as was James von Brunn.

I visit STORMFRONT everyday and converse with those whiggers to help them lose the His-story taught by Jewmedias. It's all Jews nowdays. Even Obamma bin Laden is a molatto Jew. Send that village idiot of Kenya back to muslim Indonesia, and digg up that grave of his poor grandmother and honor her to a better place in arlington for not going along with the New World Order's plan to move Bary Soros (true name prior to "Barack Hussein" being assumed) into an illegitimate government position.

"The only mistake Hitler made was that he didn't kill the jews."

w00t (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28385005)

I love deep dicking pussy.

Re:w00t (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28386017)

No you don't. I can tell from here that you're an unashamed bum bandit.

Going to be more changes soon (3, Interesting)

realnrh (1298639) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385031)

Souter's leaving, Ginsburg is likely to leave in the next two or three years (to ensure that Obama gets to choose her replacement), Stevens is likely to do the same... and all of them are considered likely at this point to be replaced by more distinctly progressive justices, since for the first time in decades there's a Democratic President with a Democratic Senate that can actually confirm his choices easily. None of the hard-right justices (Scalia, Alito, Thomas, or Roberts) is going to be stepping down voluntarily any time soon, but Kennedy might be getting some inclinations that way based on not being fond of being the constant swing vote, subject to pressures from all of his colleagues all the time.

Re:Going to be more changes soon (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385277)

Being the swing vote is fun, gives you a lot more influence than anyone except the Chief Justice. Plus you can push the judges whose side you decide on to let you write the opinion.

Re:Going to be more changes soon (2)

fyrie (604735) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385497)

Define "Progressive"

Is it going to be Geddy Lee?

Re:Going to be more changes soon (3, Informative)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28386219)

It's a matter of trying to shape reality. If they're "Progressive" they must be in favor of progress. If someone opposed progress, they must be bad.

Not all change is progress.

LK

Re:Going to be more changes soon (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28386301)

Everybody's so busy wanting to be down with the gang. "I'm conservative", "I'm liberal", "I'm conservative". Bullshit! Be a fucking person! Lis-ten! Let it swirl around your head. Then form your opinion. No normal, decent person is one thing, okay? I've got some shit I'm conservative about, I've got some shit I'm liberal about. Crime, I'm conservative. Prostitution, I'm liberal!

-- Chris Rock

Re:Going to be more changes soon (1)

conspirator57 (1123519) | more than 5 years ago | (#28388689)

You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your fucking khakis. You're the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world. ...

Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else.

Tyler Durden

Re:Going to be more changes soon (1)

PylonHead (61401) | more than 5 years ago | (#28391359)

I hear he wrote the dissenting opinion in Maples v. Oaks.

Re:Going to be more changes soon (2, Funny)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385629)

Ginsburg, unless forced to resign by illness, will wait until after the 2010 midterms. All signs point to the democrats getting a greater than 60 seat majority (likely 62, with the possibility of as much as 64), making it so Republicans would need democrats to vote against stopping a filibuster. Which isn't going to happen.

Re:Going to be more changes soon (3, Insightful)

JordanL (886154) | more than 5 years ago | (#28386041)

I always get a kick out of people who think that SCOTUS justices go through that much effort to time their replacement.

Many, though not all, Justices have little interest in the particular politics of the week, and have more concern for whether or not their replacement will bring a decorum, sensibility and intelligence to the court which befits the seat which they are giving up.

I doubt Ginsburg will conciously wait until the Dems have a supermajority for the purpose of stuffing something down the republicans throats. And I also seriously doubt the dems (or the Repubs) getting a supermajority period for the foreseeable future.

Voters in this country have pretty much spoken: you have one term to make a difference, or they'll find someone else who will.

I don't think that has to do with party lines as much as frustration, and honestly I view THAT as a good thing.

Re:Going to be more changes soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28387049)

Voters aren't frustrated enough apparently. Two presidents for two terms apiece two consecutive times. And one bore the worst approval ratings in history, and the unpopularity didn't phase him one bit.

Re:Going to be more changes soon (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 5 years ago | (#28390181)

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

I agree with you that the judges are more focused on their own lives than their replacement by a long shot.

I disagree on the trend. The republicans really screwed up badly. They sided very visibly with about 10% of the population over the other 90% and then drove the country into the ditch. While productivity has skyrocketed, employee pay hasn't- but executive pay has.

I voted for reagan and bush sr. I'll probably never vote republican again until they start caring about someone besides the elite.. or as Bush, jr. called them, "his base".

Re:Going to be more changes soon (4, Interesting)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 5 years ago | (#28388795)

I don't know Kennedy,* but unless he's an unusual lawyer, he probably loves being the swing vote. In effect it's like having the STAR chamber** for the prosecution, the weak-lefties for the defense, and he gets to listen to their arguments and decide the case. Or in cases where he already has a firm viewpoint on the subject, he can use his position in the middle to frame the terms of the decision. If he doesn't find that appealing, he should retire, because he's gotten tired of the Law.

*Insert Bentsen/Quayle joke here.
**Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts

I like visualization (4, Insightful)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385073)

Tufte might grouse though about all the small fonts and the overloading of the vertical axis...

Some things jump right out at me...

  • You can see the often-reported phenomenon of justices generally getting more liberal the longer they stay on the court. Conervative justices in particular tend to trend mellower and mellower over time.
  • You can see how some justices, like Frankfurter, will trend contra the overall trend of the court. As the court got bluer into the 50s, he got redder.
  • How is it that SEVEN of the nine justices who voted in favor of Brown were conservative? There's no way that case would get a unanimous decision today, and conservatives today are much more moderate on social issues than they were in the 50s. This is probably an artifact of the single-dimension grading process than anything else. Alot of Progressive Democrats through WW2 and into the 50s were happy to call themselves racist, and many Republicans still marginally considered themslves enlightened party-of-Lincoln non-racists. There was a big realignment of constiuencies around '68, and this tends to skew the definitional "liberal"/"conservative" meanings.

Re:I like visualization (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28385323)

You can see the often-reported phenomenon of justices generally getting more liberal

No, you can't. Taking the last score for a judge minus the first score for the same judge, 18 judges became bluer by at least 0.05 and 15 became redder by at least 0.05 (six judges changed by less than 0.05 first to last).

Re:I like visualization (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385405)

Well, I didn't say what proportion of them got more liberal :)

Re:I like visualization (2, Insightful)

conspirator57 (1123519) | more than 5 years ago | (#28388745)

but note how the average of all justices over all time is 0.05. doesn't that just make you all warm and fuzzy inside about how balanced and stable our judicial politics are? no? you don't mean to say that numbers can lie, do you? or that people can set their numbers up to make the current political spectrum look normal?

Re:I like visualization (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28385403)

You can see the often-reported phenomenon of justices generally getting more liberal the longer they stay on the court. Conervative justices in particular tend to trend mellower and mellower over time.

Funny, I was thinking that it looked like, for the most part, each justice became more extreme over their sitting, cons more con, progressives more pro...

but I also noticed a few that got more extreme, and then backed down right near the end

I'm just going on my first impression, so you might still be right

Re:I like visualization (0, Flamebait)

unitron (5733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385915)

There was a big realignment of constiuencies around '68...

Commonly referred to as Nixon's "southern strategy", i.e., try to monopolize the redneck bigot vote.

Re:I like visualization (5, Informative)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 5 years ago | (#28386227)

> Alot of Progressive Democrats through WW2 and into the 50s were happy to call themselves racist,
> and many Republicans still marginally considered themslves enlightened party-of-Lincoln
> non-racists. There was a big realignment of constiuencies around '68, and this tends to skew
> the definitional "liberal"/"conservative" meanings.

Not exactly. whne public opinon on racism turned against it the Progressives in the media, academy and the arts did a fast pivot and suddenly racism was a conservative/republican thing. The official histories were rewritten and now Republicans have ALWAYS been racists and Democrats have ALWAYS been the enlightened folk. But it ain't so.

To hear modern 'historians' tell it Lincoln was a Democrat, the labels have just swapped somehow.

Nope. Go look at old history. The Solid South was all Democrat until the late 1970's. Seriously, most Southern states didn't elect their first Republican Governor or Senator until then. All those bigots you see in the grainy newsreels turning water hoses and dogs on people, yup every last one of them was a Democrat.

Democrats hated Lincoln (the first Republican POTUS) even more than that hate Bush (the most recent Republican POTUS). So from Lincoln to Bush the Republicans have a pretty good record on the race issue. Debate all you want about other aspects of the Bush record but the diversity of his administration is not really debatable. Meanwhile Bill Clinton was hailed as the 'first black president' at the time but had a pretty darned monochome group of people around him.

And at this point the doubters will bring up Nixon and his "Southern Strategy." No. Total myth. Nixon was many bad things, stupid wasn't one of them. Go hit wikipedia and examine the election returns. Note the third candidate. Ok, remember that southern bigots HATED Republicans. Hated with a white hot hate that would never die. (the idiots dying off was the way it ended as things turned out) So you are a Southern Yellow Dog Democrat and you have McGovern, Nixon and Wallace to pick from. Oh yea, you are going to pick Nixon. Riight. We are to believe Nixon thought he could out bigot George Wallace without alienating the northern Republicans.

Note that there is ONE Kleagle of the Klan seated in the US Congress. He is not a Republican.

This should be enough to put the "Republicans are racists" myth is put in question. (It can't be 'debunked' in a slashdot post, all I can hope for is to plant some seeds of doubt. It is up to YOU to follow up and learn the Truth for yourself.) Now lets examine the other side a bit more.

As noted above, the south was almost enturely Southern Democrats. But the racism of the Democratic Party was by no means a Southern thang. It permeates the entire 'Progressive' project. Go read Jonah Goldberg's _Liberal Fascism_ to get a full exploration of the connection between today's Democratic Party, the old Progressive movement, the Communists AND the Fascists and Nazis. Yes, including the noxious ideas on race.

In this space lets let one example serve to get the curious asking questions about the accuracy of the history they have been taught. Take Hillary Clinton's 'hero' Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood. Go dig into this central figure of the Progressive movement a bit. Lets just say it isn't an accident most of their efforts were (and still are) concentrated in the areas with large 'ethnic' populations. Crazy bitch was quite open (as most of the early Progressives were) about her notions regarding culling out the fast breeding but inferior breeds.

Re:I like visualization (4, Insightful)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28386581)

I'm not sure what you're trying to prove, but your account of "modern historians" seems to come out of thin air; no historian within the realm of citation has ever claimed Lincoln was a Democrat, or that the labels got "swapped" somehow. The Republican party isn't essentially racist; US political parties don't essentially stand for anything. The racist block of poor southern whites simply just stopped voting Dem and stated voting Republican after the LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act. Southerners had been wary of the Democratic coalition ever since FDR, but he was able to keep them in the tent by buying them off with federal allocations on projects like the TVA and rural electrificatio. The dead hand of this is still with us: the federal government still over-allocates to states that were critical to the dixiecrat electoral block.

The assertion that the southern strategy [wikipedia.org] was a myth is prima facie ridiculous-- there's decades of documentation and scholarship, and most of the originators, including Phillips, Moynihan and Buchanan acknowledge that it exists and played a critical role in forming the post-Voting Rights Act Republican coalition. They stripped the Democratic party of dixiecrats by becoming a party of states' rights, opposing federal writ when it came to affirmative action and busing.

Goldberg's thesis is ahistorical. He tries to draw progressivism and liberalism together with socialism and fascism, but he reduces partisan alignment to philosophy. People vote for socialists without believing in socialism, because the fact is that most parties who declare themselves socialist, or fascist, or liberal simply aren't. Socialists, which were called "Social Democrats" in Germany were hell-bent against National-Socialists in Germany; and both detested the Communists. Progressives in the US had a strong historical relationship to the church, and while areligious progressives in the 30s favored eugenics policies religious ones absolutely did not. And all of this is separate from Sanger, unless you consider birth control tantamount to eugenics, which a lot of people honestly disagree with. The "liberal fascism" argument is born out of the belief that people identify with political parties because they share a common set of beliefs, and that beliefs fall on a continuum. They don't. People don't vote Socialist because they want a Socialist form of government, and the more socialist it gets, the happier they are. People vote Socialist (or Communist, Fascist, Liberal, whatever) because that party promises X, Y, and Z, and the voter decides which party's platform best conicides with their self-interest. Goldberg sees the world through a lens of ideological purity, where parties are evaluated in terms of their consistency to some dogma, as opposed to their ability to deliver on promises to their interest groups, which is actually how people decide what parties to join.

Re:I like visualization (1, Flamebait)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 5 years ago | (#28386893)

> I'm not sure what you're trying to prove, but your account of "modern historians" seems to
> come out of thin air; no historian within the realm of citation has ever claimed Lincoln
> was a Democrat, or that the labels got "swapped" somehow.

Except they do. Oh they don't do it those words but they clearly try to paint the modern Democratic party as the inheritor of the Lincoln legacy on the race relations issue.

> The racist block of poor southern whites simply just stopped voting Dem and stated voting
> Republican after the LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act.

That is the theory we are given but I live in the South. The South became Republican as the old Yellow Dog Democrats started dying out. In the main those old guys never forgave the Republicans for Lincoln's "war Crimes", they just finally died out. A few of the less radicalized younger ones eventually flipped parties, mostly due to Reagan not Nixon.

And again, wouldn't you think bigots who are single issue voters on that issue would know the Civil Rights Act (and I think the VRA as well votewise) passed with Republican votes over the fillibuster of Kleagle Byrd and the majority of the Democrats in Congress. We are expected to believe they voted for Nixon over George Wallace? If the bigits were voting for Nixon was Wallace stuffing the ballot boxes to get his numbers?

As for your 'authorities' I wouldn't put much stock in what a NY Democrat has to say about the inner workings of the Republican party and Pat Buchanan is quite mad these days, you do know that don't you.

> People vote for socialists without believing in socialism...

This part of your post is just muddled. Some people are single issue voters. They have their pet issue and vote for whoever promises to support that issue, period. But most people aren't. But they also aren't the dolts you seem to think they are. If people really were as hopeless as you make them to be and they couldn't be educated then the whole notion of self government would be a bad idea.

The parties, in every period, tend to espouse two fairly different philosophies. even when not explicitly stated most voters have a fairly clear notion of what the two positions are. One will more closely align with their positions. That is the party they will be registered with. If neither party is very close they are an "Independent." Because our government schools (by intent) do a poor job of Civics education most people don't know enough to make the best choices and they are a lot more prone to get swayed by personalities but they do still vote their general interests as they see them most of the time.

And right now the two general positions have never been more starkly divided.

One side basically divides people into two groups. A small enlightened elite, fit to rule by right of their superior intelligence and morality and the poor benighted creatures who would collapse into cannibalism without the first group. And it is important that the second group BELIEVE themselves to be helpless and utterly dependent on the first group.

The other camp believes everyone should be free to pursue happiness and that the vast majority of people will find it if we can get the meddling fools in Washington off everyone's back.

Re:I like visualization (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28388139)

That is the theory we are given but I live in the South. The South became Republican as the old Yellow Dog Democrats started dying out. In the main those old guys never forgave the Republicans for Lincoln's "war Crimes", they just finally died out. A few of the less radicalized younger ones eventually flipped parties, mostly due to Reagan not Nixon.

I live in the south, too. In Jesse Helms's constituency (where the schools were segregated by law until the '70s when the feds finally intervened). And your contention is a revisionist fantasy.

The south went Republican, not because of Nixon or Reagan, but in direct response to Johnson's voting rights act. Strom Thurmond saw the civil rights writing on the wall and switched parties in '64. Jesse changed parties during Nixon's first term. Both of them lived for a very long time after making the switch.

Re:I like visualization (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28389135)

All those bigots you see in the grainy newsreels turning water hoses and dogs on people, yup every last one of them was a Democrat.

It's just not hip to be a bigot any more, of any kind. Sorry.

Take Hillary Clinton's 'hero' Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood. Go dig into this central figure of the Progressive movement a bit. Lets just say it isn't an accident most of their efforts were (and still are) concentrated in the areas with large 'ethnic' populations. Crazy bitch was quite open (as most of the early Progressives were) about her notions regarding culling out the fast breeding but inferior breeds.

They are faster-breeeding, because of their inferior social position, which was created by racism (and in some cases slavery) and which is maintained by social welfare programs designed to keep you on the dole and voting democrat forever. On the other hand, the repubs seem to just want to create an outright meltdown in that portion of society. It IS the rational place to focus your efforts.

Re:I like visualization (2, Interesting)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#28391235)

The official histories were rewritten and now Republicans have ALWAYS been racists and Democrats have ALWAYS been the enlightened folk. But it ain't so.

<img src="wharrgarbl.jpg">

Re:I like visualization (1)

Swanktastic (109747) | more than 5 years ago | (#28386585)

Good analysis.

It is fascinating that Roe vs. Wade occurred at a time when the median was at one of its more conservative moments (as measured by this index).

Plus, if you look at the bottom, the court has been moderate to conservative through the entire duration of this graph. I'm not sure I actually buy into this metric.

Re:I like visualization (1)

Hubbell (850646) | more than 5 years ago | (#28388239)

Which makes no sense to me as it is a states' right's issue, not a federal issue. I'm prochoice btw.

Re:I like visualization (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 5 years ago | (#28390487)

This is why I tell people that the leaning of a particular justice even within the same session will not necessarily tell you how that justice will see the matter at hand. Look at Gonzales v. Raich, where Rehnquist and Thomas -- two of the three most conservative leaning justices at the time -- voted in favor of allowing California's legalization of medical marijuana laws to trump federal law, while Kennedy and Scalia voted to let federal law win out.

You can make a general guess, but until the opinion is published, you just don't know.

Re:I like visualization (1)

rangek (16645) | more than 5 years ago | (#28391133)

This is why I tell people that the leaning of a particular justice even within the same session will not necessarily tell you how that justice will see the matter at hand. Look at Gonzales v. Raich, where Rehnquist and Thomas -- two of the three most conservative leaning justices at the time -- voted in favor of allowing California's legalization of medical marijuana laws to trump federal law, while Kennedy and Scalia voted to let federal law win out. You can make a general guess, but until the opinion is published, you just don't know.

Huh? The conservatives were upholding states rights (a favorite conservative stance), where-as the liberals were up holding expansive federal government, as they often do. No surprises here.

Re:I like visualization (1)

onemorechip (816444) | more than 5 years ago | (#28391519)

Scalia a liberal?

BTW I'm quite liberal and I don't stand for "expansive federal government".

Re:I like visualization (1, Troll)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28387973)

.

How is it that SEVEN of the nine justices who voted in favor of Brown were conservative? There's no way that case would get a unanimous decision today, and conservatives today are much more moderate on social issues than they were in the 50s. .

That's because, despite what the way the media generally portrays things, conservatives are, typically, not racist. while liberals typically are (all the time claiming otherwise but indicating by their actions).

Martin-Quinn scores are bogus (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28385107)

Most political historians have long ago switched to the proper 4-Act Quinn Martin system.

Re:Martin-Quinn scores are bogus (2, Funny)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385279)

Those only work in the streets of San Francisco ;)

Re:Martin-Quinn scores are bogus (1)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385617)

Funny, I was thinking the same thing!

Re:Martin-Quinn scores are bogus (1)

unitron (5733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28386023)

Most political historians have long ago switched to the proper 4-Act Quinn Martin system.

Which, if correctly implemented, properly involves a prologue and an epilogue.

SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (4, Insightful)

reporter (666905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385307)

The Supreme Court of the USA (SCOTUS) should not be driven by ideology. The role of the judge is simply to apply the law impartially. Note that if SCOTUS had applied the law impartially in the early half of the 20th century, SCOTUS would have ruled that laws enforcing segregation are illegal.

Consider the case of the firefighters in New Haven [latimes.com] . If the SCOTUS decides this case on the sole basis of the legal statutes (that government shall not hire or promote on the basis of skin color), then the results of the exam will be upheld. All the white firefighters and the 1 Hispanic firefighter should be promoted. If the SCOTUS decides this case on the basis of ideology (i. e., the idea that racial quotas are in the best interest of the USA regardless of the law), then the results of the exam will be rescinded, denying promotion to the firefighters.

These days, the SCOTUS is expected to be ideological. So, political parties, lobbyists, and any other political critter will try his hardest to support a candidate (for justice of SCOTUS) who (1) is willing to make a decision on the basis of ideology and (2) exhibits the ideology that the political critter supports.

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (3, Insightful)

crumbz (41803) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385357)

Unfortunately it is impossible for any person to apply the law to a particular case impartially. Judges are human beings who take their own prejudices and worldviews into the court, it is not simply left at the door. For example, Assoc. Justice Scalia appears to have chosen "originalism" as his approach to interpreting the U.S. Constitution. This approach elevates the plain meaning of the text, as understood by the framers, as the main criterion for judicial review. Thus, when the constitution is silent on a matter, such as the right to privacy, the existence of this right is left to the legislature and not appropriate for the judiciary to decide. However, Scalia's view is but one interpretation of the constitution, among many competing views. Expecting judges to not decide opinions on the basis of their ideological preferences is idealistic and naive.

Even Scalia's originalism is bogus (1)

Quila (201335) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385623)

He has been inventing stuff too. He went with liberals in stretching the Commerce Clause to absurdity in Gonzales v. Raich.

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (0, Flamebait)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385649)

Scalia's view is highly dogmatic and very naive. I adhere to methbumulism. I ask the meth-addicted bum down the street what the constitution should mean. It's one view over many--no view is right or wrong. It's all ideological.

the Constitution is a Treaty (4, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385689)

The correct interpretation of the Constitution is that it is a treaty among the states to cede some limited power to the federal government. You don't want to go randomly inventing new terms or "living" it out because that changes the terms of the deal that binds the states together. Think of the Constitution as a TOS for the US Federal Gov't. Every time a court changes it, its a TOS change without your consent.

And it should not need to.

The Constitution does not give people rights, as the left is fond of saying, it is that the government only has limited powers and the states and people have all the rest. Thus, even if there was no 2nd amendment, the federal government would STILL be not allowed to regulate firearms. But of course, people just trample the constitution and on both sides of the aisle. The EPA, DOE, and many other left wing laws are clearly unconstitutional, but so too are things like the defense of marriage act..

Re:the Constitution is a Treaty (0, Troll)

Alsee (515537) | more than 5 years ago | (#28386057)

The EPA, DOE, and many other left wing laws

My mostly-mercury-free-lungs appear to have very left wing sympathies.

-

Re:the Constitution is a Treaty (2, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28386629)

My mostly-mercury-free-lungs appear to have very left wing sympathies.

If you want to have an EPA, pass a constitutional amendment.

Re:the Constitution is a Treaty (2, Insightful)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28386275)

...are clearly unconstitutional, but so too are things like the defense of marriage act..

On what grounds do you make this claim?

LK

Re:the Constitution is a Treaty (2, Informative)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28386635)

On what grounds do you make this claim?

The Constitution does not grant the Congress an explicitly enumerated power to regulate marriage.

Re:the Constitution is a Treaty (5, Interesting)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 5 years ago | (#28387043)

> The Constitution does not grant the Congress an explicitly enumerated power to regulate marriage.

No it doesn't. But it is still one of the more interesting questions the court will eventually have to settle. Both sides can make a strong originalist case. Observe:

The DOMA isn't about marriage per se, it is about clarifying the Full Faith and Credit clause in the Constitution. The word marriage has a specific meaning. Some states have suddenly decided (mostly by judicial fiat, but we now have some states which did it correctly) the word has a different meaning. If State A redefines a word that redefinition is not required to be accepted by State B. So just because two men are "Married" in Vermont does not mean West Virginia has to accept that their marriage laws have been redefined in ways that make a mockery of the purpose of those laws as understood in West Virginia.

The other side just has to mention that it wasn't too many years back that "Marriage" didn't include mixed race couples in quite a few states and the courts ruled that such a marriage was valid in every state. Right there you are most of the way to winning the argument. And Nevada was notorious for it's divorce laws. And marriages involving girls so young it would be statutory rape in most states wasn't illegal so long as you kept that marriage license handy. And finally, had not Utah not been required to renounce bigamy before admission to the Union their marriages would have almost certainly been legal nationwide.

So both sides can make a case, which way to rule? Most cases I can get on my soapbox and declare a winner. Can't on this one.

Re:the Constitution is a Treaty (1)

ildon (413912) | more than 5 years ago | (#28387561)

It's no different than the requirements of a driver's license or a business license. The states agree to simply recognize each others' legal documents even if the requirements for said documents are not the same.

Re:the Constitution is a Treaty (1)

JeanPaulBob (585149) | more than 5 years ago | (#28391027)

It's no different than the requirements of a driver's license or a business license. The states agree to simply recognize each others' legal documents even if the requirements for said documents are not the same.

And if one state applied the label "driver's license" to a different kind of license?

Re:the Constitution is a Treaty (1)

JeanPaulBob (585149) | more than 5 years ago | (#28390821)

The word marriage has a specific meaning. Some states have suddenly decided (mostly by judicial fiat, but we now have some states which did it correctly) the word has a different meaning.

[...]

The other side just has to mention that it wasn't too many years back that "Marriage" didn't include mixed race couples in quite a few states and the courts ruled that such a marriage was valid in every state.

[...]

So both sides can make a case, which way to rule? Most cases I can get on my soapbox and declare a winner. Can't on this one.

So, you see strength in the arguments for the DOMA, on the basis of the "redefinition" idea. In other words, it's not that same-sex marriage is banned in some places, it's that "marriage" is understood to refer to a particular kind of relationship. The argument is that the word doesn't even apply.

So, how does the comparison with mixed-race marriage work? The bans on mixed-race marriage were bans on particular pairings, but they weren't about the definition of marriage. All the example you gave were similar--various marriages & divorces being allowed, but not the definition of marriage changing.

Bigamy being the possible exception. (Though I'd like to point out an interesting question: Consider the laws that define marriage as being between one man and one woman. If a man marries two women, is he in one marriage, or two? Are the women married to each other? The first wife doesn't even have to be at the ceremony. So... As far as I can see, the "one-man-one-woman" phrasing doesn't actually ban polygamy. And this might be a solid basis for saying that polygamy is not a different definition of marriage. Polyamorous group marriages might be.)

Re:the Constitution is a Treaty (2, Interesting)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 5 years ago | (#28388557)

The EPA, DOE, and many other left wing laws are clearly unconstitutional

Not as clearly as you might think. There is this thing called the "elastic clause" in Article II Section 8 which says,

[The Congress shall have power ...] To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes; ... To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

So whether the EPA, DOE, and other "left wing" laws as you put it are Constitutional depends on whether "commerce" includes developing land, disposing of toxic waste, selling firearms, trafficking in drugs, distributing electricity, etc. etc. etc. I am sorry to rain on your parade but the SCOTUS has decided in various cases that indeed all those activities do constitute commerce and fall under the authority of Congress.

Now there is another relevant bit of the Constitution I like to call the the Tenth Amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

As I see it the Tenth Amendment should be taken into account when deciding whether something is "commerce" or not and applying the "elastic clause." As I see it there is a direct conflict between the Tenth Amendment and the elastic clause. Now given that the Constitution was not ratified in its original form and the states absolutely insisted on the Tenth Amendment being included before they would sign the Constitution, I think that of the two the Tenth Amendment should take priority. But that's just my opinion.

I am also of the opinion that when after due consideration the people want the government to do something that is not covered in Article II Section 8 they should amend the Constitution to grant that power to Congress. However the path of least resistance is to get the SCOTUS to keep stretching the definition of "commerce" and chanting "public interest."

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (5, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 5 years ago | (#28386697)

What we get is erratic judging because bad precedent piles on previous bad precedent. But it is just post modern twaddle to assert that impartial judging is impossible. There are some pretty clear guideposts to judge the quality of a court's judging by.

what should good judging look like? Here are some rules of thumb.

1. What we want is the Rule of Law and not the Rule of Men. This means we need a dead Constitution, not a living one. The Constitution has to mean what it meant when it was written. Yes it CAN change, but only by the Amendment process, not judges deciding 'society has changed' or 'evolving standards'.

2. The best measure of whether you have the Rule of Law is whether people know what the rules are in advance. The Founders tried to make that possible by building in lots of sane defaults. Then they added the Bill of Rights to add more clarity with lots of "Congress shall pass no law..." and "shall not be infringed" short of language to clearly define limits to the powers of the Federal Government and topped off with the 9th and 10th Amendments to attempt to put the government in a small clearly defined area. Basically, unless it is clearly specified that something IS something the Federal Government controls the default answer is NO, the government can't do it.

It really shouldn't take much thought to figure out how the Supremes SHOULD rule on most questions. The problem is even the most strict originalists lack both the numbers and the courage to break with precedent and clean out most of the Federal government and thus have to weasel their way to slowly try to push the law in originalist directions without wholesale renunciation of precedent.

3. How would a court full of Vulcans or correctly operating expert systems rule? Working correctly the court would be bored to death because everyone on the lower courts would know how the Supreme Court would rule, and even most of the litigants would know, thus few cases would ever be appealed to them. But because with our current broken system neither side has a frickin clue how any given court, including the SCOTUS, will rule we get endless court action. Heck, by the time your case works its way up the makeup of the SCOTUS will probably change.

Some examples might make these ideas more understandable:

Roe v Wade: The Constitution is silent on abortion thus the 10th reserves it as an issue for the States. The Feds can neither outlaw abortion nationwide or forbid the States from outlawing it. Citizenship is defined as 'born or naturalized' so the pro-life argument that a fetus is a baby may or may not have merit, but that a fetus isn't a Citizen is black letter law as the Constitution is currently written.

McCain/Feingold: What part of Congress shall make no law... is beyond the comprehension of the Honorable Senators? Note that the entirety of the Campaign Finance regulatory regime fails this test along with most of the FEC regulatory machinery.

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (1)

Gorm the DBA (581373) | more than 5 years ago | (#28390195)

(quote) McCain/Feingold: What part of Congress shall make no law... is beyond the comprehension of the Honorable Senators? Note that the entirety of the Campaign Finance regulatory regime fails this test along with most of the FEC regulatory machinery. (/quote)

The same part that lets them ban child porn. (No, I am not in favor of child porn, I'm just using the 'Child porn is the root password to the Constitution' logic.)

"No law" doesn't mean "No law", it means That the Constitutional Principles the law being examined is furthering (Fair and honest elections, people electing their representatives, not corporations, etc) are furthered more than the constitutional principals being diminished by the law (unlimited speech in the political arena)

That balance falls in favor of "Yes, you can restrict someone's ability to essentially buy an office".

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (2, Insightful)

JeanPaulBob (585149) | more than 5 years ago | (#28391331)

Roe v Wade: The Constitution is silent on abortion thus the 10th reserves it as an issue for the States. The Feds can neither outlaw abortion nationwide or forbid the States from outlawing it. Citizenship is defined as 'born or naturalized' so the pro-life argument that a fetus is a baby may or may not have merit, but that a fetus isn't a Citizen is black letter law as the Constitution is currently written.

So it's only homicide if the one who dies is a citizen?

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (1)

ildon (413912) | more than 5 years ago | (#28387531)

Which is why there are 9 and they are supposed to try to come to a consensus or at least a majority. The theory is that this practice will help to (but not guarantee to) cancel out whatever personal prejudices the people on the bench have.

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28390779)

Thus, when the constitution is silent on a matter, such as the right to privacy, the existence of this right is left to the legislature and not appropriate for the judiciary to decide

When the constitution is silent on a matter, such as the right to privacy or anything else not explicitly mentioned in the constitution, it is "reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (1, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385375)

I think you're missing the big picture. The Constitution is in some ways an ambiguous document and each of the justices has a different idea of how it should be interpreted. This is an "ideology," but it's one that you need to have if you're a judge, otherwise you can't make any sort of ruling.

The Constitution is LAW (-1, Troll)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385557)

The Constitution is in some ways an ambiguous document and each of the justices has a different idea of how it should be interpreted

The Constitution is not the Quran to be "interpreted" in many different ways.
the Constitution is the LAW. It is not a religious document (as neocons want it) and it is not a piece of paper (as illiterate Bush thought it was)
It clearly defines the contract between the People (and that includes resident non-citizens), the States and the Federal Government.
To specifically avoid the ambiguity that the British non-constitution has, the Founders made sure the document was written, written well in clear lucid writing and signed by all the Founders as a sort of ratification.
Don't you read history?

Re:The Constitution is LAW (3, Interesting)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385669)

To specifically avoid the ambiguity that the British non-constitution has, the Founders made sure the document was written, written well in clear lucid writing and signed by all the Founders as a sort of ratification.

Oh yeah: "Unreasonable", "necessary and proper", "probable cause", "due process", "cruel and unusual". Yep, nothing to interpret there.

Wait a minute...

Re:The Constitution is LAW (2, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28386717)

Yeah, and it's amazing how many US people keep waving their Constitution about but don't actually read it.

It's like lot of people spouting just a few verses from the their favourite religious text but not reading the rest of it (or realizing it's not as simple as that - understanding the spirit of the document and it's implications today, takes a fair bit of effort and time).

The US constitution isn't just the amendments. Yes the amendments are pretty important, but the fact that there are a fair number of amendments should tell you the Founders didn't come up with such a well written document as so many appear to think.

See:
http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html [archives.gov]

And compare with the annotated version (with cases etc)

http://www.law.cornell.edu/anncon/ [cornell.edu]

You'll find there's so much interpretation required. So the Judges are extremely important since they interpret the Constitution and Laws. If you have crappy courts and judges you can get very bad interpretations.

There's plenty of room for interpretation see:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

So what is "consent of the Congress", "Office of Profit/Trust" or present? Do they have to vote on it whenever a foreign King or Queen wants to give a US Senator/President a signed picture frame? Or can Congress put "anything less than $$$/month is automatically OK" in some law and be done with it?

Re:The Constitution is LAW (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385673)

Except it doesn't clearly define a contract in many cases. There's a lot of wiggle room and undefined terms- partly because there was no way to define them and get the ratification of all the states, partly because they made them vague on purpose- because a system (which is what the Constitution truly creates) without the ability to adapt quickly becomes useless.

Re:The Constitution is LAW (2, Insightful)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385741)

The Constitution is not the Quran to be "interpreted" in many different ways.

Almost every amendment has at least one angle for interpretation.
  - When does something printed move from news to libel?
  - What arms do the people have the right to possess?
  - All of the possible nuances of the way in which the state may come into possession of evidence means that "reasonable search" has changed over time.
  - What is a valid public use of private property?
  - If a witness dies before a trial begins, how much, if any, of a deposition made by the deceased should be allowed at trial, since they cannot be confronted by the defendant?
  - The definition of "cruel and unusual punishment" has changed markedly over time for US society. Death penalty? Castration? Long-term solitary confinement?
  - Does a person have an inherent right to get married?
  - If a state passes a law that directly contradicts a federal law, who wins out?

That's the Bill of Rights in order, minus Amendments III and VII, for which I couldn't think of anything off the top of my head. All of those are open to interpretation to some degree. One may have no limits, or one may have complete limits, but most people fall in-between, and that range is why there is interpretation at all.

Re:The Constitution is LAW (4, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385763)

Actually, if you knew your Constitutional history you'd realize that the Constitution was a result of many compromises, and some of the ambiguities were intentionally so in order to get enough support for its ratification.

Just read it. Too many things (like "commerce between the states") are left undefined.No, it doesn't. As an example, let me pick the most non-controversial one (by Slashdot standards) I can think of off the top of my head, the Fourth Amendment. Here's one of the questions they throw at you in law school:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The first clause says people are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the second clause says no warrants without certain requirements. Does this mean that you need a warrant to arrest people? There are two ways to read it; the first is that the two clauses are connected and a warrant is necessary for all arrests, the other is that arrests just need to be reasonable, and that if a police officer chooses to get a warrant, then it must be supported by oath or affirmation, etc. Both are valid readings of the text, with two very different results.

Re:The Constitution is LAW (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28388223)

If your second reading is correct, then by that same reading, no warrant is needed for a search. I had never really thought about it before, but it is clear to me from the Court rulings on searches without a warrant, that current police practices for arresting people is in violation of the 4th Amendment.

Re:The Constitution is LAW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28390787)

If your second reading is correct, then by that same reading, no warrant is needed for a search. I had never really thought about it before, but it is clear to me from the Court rulings on searches without a warrant, that current police practices for arresting people is in violation of the 4th Amendment.

Of course under this interpretation then it would be unconstitutional for the police to try to arrest a person coming out of a bank with a sack full of money and a smoking gun in their hands, because they lacked a warrant for that individual. Yet I doubt the SCOTUS would ever overturn a robbery conviction where an arrest was made on these grounds.

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (1)

MrMista_B (891430) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385423)

You don't want SCOTUS to be run by humans?

What, then? Remove the people and leave it up to machines?

Human beings, by virture of being /alive/, with experience of life and personalities are by their very nature inevitably Ideological, in everything they do.

It cannot be seperated from anything.

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (1)

Dr. Hellno (1159307) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385633)

Actually, as soon as we can make an all-knowing, benevolent machine, then yeah I'd be down with throwing the justices out of the SCOTUS and plugging in Deep Thought. Of course, we'd have to be all knowing ourselves to know if the machine really knew everything.
Well, shit.

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (1)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 5 years ago | (#28390029)

Who defines benevolent? In most instances, a court case is deciding between two parties. Benevolence is relative.

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (3, Insightful)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385437)

If the SCOTUS decides this case on the sole basis of the legal statutes (that government shall not hire or promote on the basis of skin color), then the results of the exam will be upheld.

I don't see how you can just state that ad arguendo. If a court finds in favor of New Haven, they are strictly applying federal law. Federal law might be quota-ist, but it's the law. Is the court supposed to write its own laws, or apply it's own reading of the constitution when the Congress has specifically stated that it interprets the Constitution differently? Conservatives only want "impartial rulings" and "strict construction" when it takes destroys people's civil rights and substantive due process, and when a court actually finds impartially for those things, they demand activism. Both sides play this game. Just find good judges and let them do their job-- throw them out if they're corrupt, but otherwise if they can convince 4 of their peers, give them the benefit of the doubt.

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (3, Informative)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385727)

The definition of "activist judge"- any judge who rules against the way I want.

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385771)

It's important to point out that the popular equivalents, the runaway jury and nullifying jury, are quite legal and sometimes even celebrated in our legal system, even though both act within the legal system with bad faith.

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (1)

JeanPaulBob (585149) | more than 5 years ago | (#28391501)

I'm not sure that people who genuinely support true judicial activism--changing the law rather than ruling on the law--would appreciate comparing it with the power of the People to ignore unjust law in juries.

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 5 years ago | (#28386981)

Activist = someone fighting for a cause I like

Activist judge = a judge fighting for a cause I don't like

It's straight out of 1984.

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (1)

JeanPaulBob (585149) | more than 5 years ago | (#28391447)

The definition of "activist judge"- any judge who rules against the way I want.

Keep in mind, though--just because people apply the label to anything they don't like, doesn't mean the label doesn't have a real definition describing a significant point of judicial philosophy.

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385567)

The protection against bias is already built into the system. It's why there are nine Supreme Court Justices instead of one, and why they are appointed positions for as long as they care to have the job (barring gross misconduct). As others have mentioned, this will be true and necessary for as long as humans are appointed to this position.

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (1)

Alsee (515537) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385969)

A judge who rules the way I like is applying the law objectively and impartially.

A judge who makes rulings I dislike is an activist making ideology-based decisions.

-

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28386249)

These days, the SCOTUS is expected to be ideological. So, political parties, lobbyists, and any other political critter will try his hardest to support a candidate (for justice of SCOTUS) who (1) is willing to make a decision on the basis of ideology and (2) exhibits the ideology that the political critter supports.

Why do you think people go to law school, become lawyers and then accept appointment to the bench? It's not just for the paycheck. It's because they want to have the power to give their ideology the force of law.

Human nature being what it is, we can't really expect the SCOTUS to be free of ideology. Human beings are not built that way. If a Judge's father was passed up for a deserved promotion because of racial quotas or racism, s/he will have a personal stake in the outcome of cases that touch on that issue.

LK

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (1)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | more than 5 years ago | (#28386357)

Then why have humans in the Supreme Court at all? Why not just have computers do the work?

We have Judges because the law is often ambiguous and imperfect, and someone needs to interpret the law. There are different ways to interpret the law, and no human will be perfectly impartial, and all judgments will at least partially reflect the judges ideology.

I remember Chief Justice Roberts gave a speech on impartiality when he was nominated, and yet I'm pretty sure most of his decisions come from one side of the political/legal spectrum.

Good point --- although you're entirely wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28389351)

Consider the case of the firefighters in New Haven [latimes.com]. If the SCOTUS decides this case on the sole basis of the legal statutes (that government shall not hire or promote on the basis of skin color), then the results of the exam will be upheld.

You've managed to pick an example that precisely contradicts the point you're trying to make. The statute makes clear that the courts must prevent laws that are either directly or indirectly discriminatory (with lots of legislative debate and commentary to make it clear that they meant the second part).

(There was a reason for this wording: during the 20th century there were many examples of conditions that were not directly discriminatory on their face, but were clearly intended to have the effect of discriminating. Egregious example: requiring a literacy test as a condition for voting. So the Congress made strong laws to deal even with this sort of back-door discrimination.)

Now in the Ricci case, a series of courts actually went ahead and enforced a law as written by Congress. Which is precisely what you claim to want the court to do. And yet, since you're unhappy with the outcome, you charge "judicial activism". But you're absolutely turned around in this case.

Now, let's be clear: if you don't like the way the laws are written, you could take it to Congress and get them changed. But you're not doing that, and I doubt that there's much public support for it. Which is telling. So instead of working through the legislative process, you misread the law and try to claim that the courts are modifying it, when they're enforcing it exactly the way Congress instructed them to.

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 5 years ago | (#28389381)

The SCOTUS hasn't just become ideological "these days". Way back in the early 1800s when it started to assert itself as a coequal branch of government, the two parties fought over it, with Congress even impeaching one of the justices. It was overtly political in FDR's day, as evidenced by his attempt to pack it with a bunch of additional liberal justices. Furthermore, there's been an ongoing evolution of the Court interpreting the Constitution, beginning with the point in which the John Jay Court interpreted it to give the Court authority over the states, and especially John Marshall's interpretation of the Constitution in Marbury v. Madison that the Court had the authority to... interpret the Constitution, thereby bootstrapping it into that role.

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#28390015)

I absolutely agree with you about the application of law impartially. Unfortunately, that's far from reality.

For instance, if you read lot of the flak that Justice David Souter has gotten, especially from the conservative side, it is precisely his tendency to call things based on law and precedent rather than ideology that got them riled up. A lot of folks who have particular political opinions (most notably surrounding abortion, but there are plenty of other issues) want ideological justices because they see them as the easiest way to get their political views in place for a couple of decades without having to risk that a mere election can get rid of those ideas.

Now, thanks to what happened to the nomination of Justice Bork in particular, now nominees are encouraged to have the ideological views preferred by those who appoint them but hide them until after the Senate confirms them to the court.

On top of that, there are often ambiguities in law, and situations that kinda apply to a law but not exactly, and laws that are kinda Constitutional but come close to the line, and so on. It's very unlike computers, where it's ultimately some reliable 1's and 0's.

Re:SCOTUS should not be driven by ideology. (2, Insightful)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 5 years ago | (#28390341)

The Supreme Court of the USA (SCOTUS) should not be driven by ideology. The role of the judge is simply to apply the law impartially.

You will understand "progressives" a lot better, once you realize that the above statement is ideology.

Seriously, there are people who disagree with that statement. What's amazing is that they are the majority. Most people in the US now, think that the law is incomplete and implies things rather than says things.

Look at any SCOTUS case, let's say (here's a good recent one): Do convicted prisoners have the constitutional right to a DNA test to prove their innocence? Almost everyone thinks giving convicts a DNA test (in cases where there is DNA known from the perpetrator to compare with) to re-verify their guilt is, at worst, harmless. Among that group, probably most people think it's a good idea to go ahead and do it.

Progressives look at the situation and say, well, since the DNA testing is a good idea, then it's a constitutional right. DNA testing is the mainstream technology du jour, and therefore, implicitly part of "due process." It's that simple.

Conservatives read the law and say, "I don't see anything in the constitution about DNA. I just can't find DNA mentioned anywhere in that 1780s document, maybe my browser's search function is broken." So they'll say it's not constitutionally protected, but many probably think it's a good idea and might vote for it if they happen to hold office as a state legislator. It's that simple.

They're both spouting ideology, but most conservatives don't realize that "the courts should apply the law impartially" is idealogy because they remember (or think they remember, but that's another topic) when such statements were common sense shared by 99% of the population. When ideology is unanimous and not divisive, we don't think of it as ideology. But you have to pay attention to the growing population that sees the current laws as being so unfair, that those laws must not really be The Law. Once that group becomes big enough, what was once common sense is now just one group's ideology.

"But it's obvious!!" you might think. The law is so clear. Don't forget, though, that the real law is not a document or set of ideals. It's not code, no matter how many times some people say it is. The law is ultimately whatever whoever has the most force of arms wants. It can mean mass murder to make room for the master race, or it can mean double-checking that convicts are really guilty. The law is whatever we want it to be, and I think that when you look at it that way, progressives (whether their ideals are wise or foolish) have reality on their side.

Interesting, but why so limited? (2, Interesting)

Shag (3737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385337)

70 years of history is a good start, but the court is 220 years old this year, so I hope they'll be expanding their timeline. It'd be interesting to see how the court in our lifetimes compares to the previous 150 years.

Re:Interesting, but why so limited? (3, Insightful)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385535)

I think that's sortof a doomed project, because "liberal" and "conservative" are very overloaded and our defintions don't apply to previous eras properly. Most "centrists" in the 1850s would have held a meliorist but tolerant attitude toward slavery, and most fundie Christians, up until the cold war, were populist and redistributionist. Read a William Jennings Bryan or Father Coughlin speech and see how strange their ideology is compared to how we draw the lines today; on the other hand there were people like Robert LaFolette and Neslon Rockefeller, who were rock-ribbed Republicans and conservative in a way, but completely unrecognizable to the current consensus.

A more usefuls scoring might be evaluating how federalist vs. centralist decisions are, or how strongly do the judges define a "taking." Over the arc of US History, many aspects of our discourse have become remarkably small-l liberal, like our attitude toward racism and slavery, while other aspects have trended more small-c conservative, like our attitude toward taxation and civic religion.

somewhat misleading color coding (5, Insightful)

target (97212) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385499)

One of the things that immediately struck me was that the conservative judges seemed to be more conservative than the liberal judges were liberal, based on the vividness of the color. Aha, I thought, I knew the liberals were more moderate!

But actually I think that's an artifact of the way the coloring was done. Look at Rehnquist as an associate and see the vivid red that his first year shows as, which is 3.98. Now look at Thurgood Marshall, below him, and find a -3.95. Those should look pretty similar in terms of intensity, but the blue looks much closer to white than the red does.

What I think is happening is this. They are color coding not on absolutes like that, but based on the distance between 0 and the most conservative or liberal number. But the most liberal justice is at -6, which the most conservative one is only at -5. So if you get a 4, that's 80% of the way to being the most conservative, but someone who is equivalently liberal at -4 is only 66% of the way to being the most liberal. So they get a color that looks like they are 66 points away from moderate as opposed to 80 points for the conservatives.

Well that's misleading. I think the color gradation changes need to be symmetrical across the graph or it's going to be super confusing. Maybe just call -5 the most liberal you can be and don't worry about shading Douglas more? Or make 6 the most conservative you can be and give up the super deep red color for now.

Harvard scoring, what do you expect! (2, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385653)

Well that's misleading

The chart's not meant to be honest. The point is that its a bunch of liberals in a liberal university making their political point that the right is more radical than the left when the reverse is arguably true.

Re:Harvard scoring, what do you expect! (2, Insightful)

RobVB (1566105) | more than 5 years ago | (#28387713)

I love the American right-wing conservative way of dealing with people they disagree with: call them a bunch of liberals and walk away feeling good about themselves.

On a side note, here in Flanders, the Liberal party is considered one of the center-right parties.

Re:somewhat misleading color coding (1, Informative)

nomadic (141991) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385867)

I don't see that at all. So I tested it.

Loading the graphic in GIMP, setting a grid, and using the color picker tool, I measured color saturation from both axes:

Starting with the first grid box of the blue axis (all the way to the left), and measuring the color saturation every 5 grid boxes, I got the following values: 98, 73, 43, 17.

Doing the same with red, I got the following values: 100, 73, 41, 16.

The difference seems negligible to me, especially considering some of the reds have less saturation than the corresponding blue.

Re:somewhat misleading color coding (2, Interesting)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28388347)

Perhaps it has to do with the way we perceive the colors red and blue. However, when I looked at the chart, John Roberts in the 2007 spot at 1.44 looks like a darker red than the blue of David Souter right below him at -1.48. That may be perception, but it is what I see.

But where are the Quinn Martin scores? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28385579)

Bum-bah-dum-dum -- Bum-bah-dum-dum-dummmmmmmmmmmmm.

what purpose does the animation serve? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28385905)

What a crappy graphic on page one. Gratuitous animation and no legend. My initial reaction is to expect no meaningful content.

What a god-awful graphic! (1)

Roger Wilcox (776904) | more than 5 years ago | (#28385933)

There's nothing like a simple diagram made completely unreadable by needless flashiness. Fancy graphics shouldn't be more important than the subject matter at hand. Too many web page and game designers just don't get this.

Even so, marquee text became practically obsolete on the web in about 1997. Why would one ever dream of implementing the marquee chart?

Martin Quinn Seems Somewhat Misleading (2)

rm999 (775449) | more than 5 years ago | (#28386253)

At first, I was amazed at how smoothly justices change over time, which makes the plot look very pretty. Then, I clicked on the link for the Martin-Quinn score, and saw this in the description: "The measures are estimated using a dynamic item response theory model, allowing judicial ideology to trend smoothly through time." I haven't looked into the math (all I can find after a quick search on their page is some custom C code), but the smoothing looks pretty severe, i.e. over several years.

There are on the order of 75-150 cases heard a year (it has been decreasing from 150 since the 80s) in the court - these are enough data points that they could bin the plot over a few months and show it without smoothing. My guess is this looks far less pretty.

Re:Martin Quinn Seems Somewhat Misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28388453)

No, you can't smooth it over 'a few months'. Cases are decided over a time period of many months. The easy cases may come out quickly, but the hard cases --aka the ones showing a split-- come out late and often in a group as cleanup at the end of the term. If you smooth over a couple months you'll likely see the Justices starting out neutral in the early part of the term and getting polarized as the term goes on, only to reset the next year.

Useless (3, Interesting)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#28387929)

This is completely useless. Some guys named Martin and Quinn estimate positions on a political spectrum using "Martin Quinn scores", which are not explained (the link to the explanation explains nothing.)

So, what, they guess the justices' politics and then graph their guesses?

If they don't explain how they calculated the numbers, this data is useless, or possibly worse than useless, being opinion masquerading as fact.

There is no science in this. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28390885)

Political "science" is no more science than creation "science" is science. This article belongs under politics.

TV show rating scores? (1)

Slicebo (221580) | more than 5 years ago | (#28391169)

I wonder what the scores are for "The Streets of San Francisco" or "The FBI".

I'm sure that "The Fugitive" is the highest of the bunch!

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