Of course, the first one is whether or not she would defer to the line of rulings granting corporations civil rights as “persons”. That is the first and worst way in which the oligarchic wing of the judiciary is attacking The People and our inherent rights. It’s getting worse and, as I will never stop yelling at the top of my lungs, it is destroying the capacity for legitimate, self-government.
I don’t think any nominee for the lowest court in the country who doesn’t hold that all government, including their office, is only legitimate to the extent that it exists by the just consent of an informed electorate is fit to hold the office. It should be an absolute requirement of all holders of public office to affirm that The People are the source of all authority, based on their informed judgment. Our Supreme Court is now packed with men who are doing their best to destroy that legitimate foundation of government.
Today’s Boston Globe Magazine has a rather whiny column by Farah Stockman (Harvard 1996) about the “Harvard Stigma”, on the occasion of the Senate hearings on Elena Kagan’s nomination. It points out that Harvard Law grads have been very generously represented on Supreme court, naming David Souter, Anthony Kennedy and Anthony Scalia as all being products of Harvard. And those are only some of the Republican appointees to the many Harvard seats on the court. I’m sure there are many members of gender and ethnic identities that would like to suffer that kind of stigma. Given their percentage of the population, Harvard grads are among the least stigmatized members of the species. Barack Obama, a product of Harvard Law wouldn’t have been the first Harvard Man to be making Supreme Court appointments, though he’s the first person of color to be in that position. I have no qualms about saying that if he hadn’t gone to Harvard Law, or one of the handful of other elite law schools, that he wouldn’t be president today. The various Senators representing the -- well, thankfully, you can’t exactly call it a fraternity these days – are far, far from the first to confirm nominees.
Of course there is a lot of slamming of Harvard by the far right, though George W. Bush’s association with it wasn’t any kind of a problem for them, no more than Scalia’s or Kennedy’s. The far right lies and distorts, it’s what they do about everything. If Elena Kagan had come from the far from elite law school of the University of Southern Maine, that’s the hook they’d be using against her. I have no hesitation to say that even if she’d proven to be a brilliant legal mind with the most inspiring judicial temperament and practical wisdom and a passion for fairness, she’d never have been nominated if she had come from that school. I think that Stockman might know more about that if he didn’t have Harvard blinders on.
I think that many, maybe almost all, graduates of elite institutions tend to have a real lack of appreciation for the intellectual lives most of us live. I think the longer they spend at those institutions, the more institutional loyalty they develop, the more they associate with other products of their and other elite universities, the less they learn of or remember about the wider culture. I think that is how we can get Supreme Court justices who consistently rule in favor of the elite against the needs of the many. That is how they can make the most ludicrous rulings based on legal theories that real life shows are both unjust and intolerable. The evidence I’ve seen leads me to think that Harvard Law School is an institution that produces willing tools for the perpetuation of privilege. As far as I’m concerned, if any of them want to escape that association, they should put some of their intelligence to that task. Some have, there are some people who have an association with Harvard who didn’t eat the lotus. I hope Kagan, who will be confirmed, is one of them.
As to other questions I’d like her to answer, this week’s abomination suspending the deep water drilling moritorium by "judge" Martin Feldman would make the issue of the definition of judicial conflict of interest most topical. As that Harvard Man Tony Scalia has shown to an absolute certainty, justices can rule on issues in which they have the most flagrant conflicts of interest and there is no legal mechanism to prevent that or to remove judges guilty of that form of corruption. With the rulings favoring deep water drilling, despite the clear disaster it is, by a judge who benefits from it financially, THAT IS A SITUATION THAT DISCREDITS THE ENTIRE JUDICIAL SYSTEM. There is no reason for anyone to respect the law when they see that crooked judges can get away with it in the full light of day.
Note: I also see in today’s paper that the real estate billionaire Walter Shorenstein died. Among his many philanthropies is the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. I’ve written on that institution and the kind of journalism it honors and promotes. I’ll link to that as an exhibit that the problems at Harvard aren’t just found in the law school.
Why anyone would endow anything else at the obscenely overly endowed university turns from being a matter of philanthropy into one of pyramid building. Seeing what Harvard has done with the Kennedy School itself, no one should expect anything that will upset the oligarchs to come from anything they get their hands on.