In the early 1970s, Salina’s legendary Police Chief, John Woody, had his own sly version of justice through consolidated law enforcement: “Put the judge behind the booking desk,” he said. It was a mischievous runoff of those old westerns when the grizzled strongman declares – after a big fight – that he was now the law in this town.
Welcome to a new consolidated law enforcement, our own frontier updated. It is the United States Supreme Court, rewrapped as Legislature, Sheriff, Booking Desk and Hanging Judge all in one. The High Court’s authority is reminiscent of Judge Roy Bean, the Texas saloon-keeper and Justice of the Peace. In the late 1880s he called himself “the only law west of the Pecos.”
Our Supreme Court goes one better. As a Supreme Legislature and Court of G.O.D. (Good Old Days), it can write or rewrite the law with impunity.
Late last month the Court overturned Roe. v. Wade in a decision on Mississippi’s restrictive abortion law (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization), saying the matter should be left to the states to decide.
That ruling followed the Court’s decision (New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen) that the right to carry a concealed gun should not be left to the states to decide.
The Court, with its majority of hidebound clerics, no longer fusses with legal precedent or principle. The law is whatever they decide, and they’re the only law west of the Atlantic.
Our Puritan Court will signal presidents and legislators what kind of laws to write, and to their undersheriffs what kind of laws to enforce. Deviation will be overturned, defiance punished, protests ignored. The mission is to reshape society the way of the old west, even the old colonies, where men were men and women were whatever the men wanted them to be.
The Congress, dithering when it isn’t infighting, can’t or won’t act. Presidents seem shackled by ineptitude or incompetence. Most states are crawling toward feudal rule, their overlords awaiting orders from far-away pulpits or evangelical think tanks. Our Supreme Legislature-Court can sanction new laws, rewrite old law or create new law with no need for caution or restraint. These judges are appointed for life.
In 2013 our emerging Canonical Court gutted much of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, extended in 2006 by President Bush. The Voting Act is authorized by the 15th amendment to the Constitution. The Court frowned on the Act, saying it promoted “racial entitlement” and was thus a violation of the states’ “equal sovereignty.” The Court had simply made this up. “Equal sovereignty” is nowhere in the Constitution.
The New Court, unimpressed, looked away to permit racial discrimination in voting.
With voting rights suppressed if not on the way out, the Court will consider other grievances. It’s a long list, starting with those seen as oddballs, misfits, troublemakers or worse: Gays and LGBTQs; immigrants and DACA dreamers; labor unions, teachers, Democrats.
Agencies and their charters are in the crosshairs: The Affordable Care Act; the Environmental Protection Agency, OSHA, Title IX and the ERA , the Department of Transportation, HUD, even Medicare and the Department of Agriculture. They must be revisited because they were never part of Thomas Jefferson’s dream or John Adams’ script 200-plus years ago. Nor did they fit with Cotton Mather and the Puritans.
Today’s Court of Good Old Days sees many wrongs to be made right. History with precedent is no longer for guidance. History is for cherry-picking to confirm grievances and shift them into law. The Court’s orchard is limited to the original Constitution without nuance; to the Federalist Papers; and finally to Samuel Johnson’s 1755 English language dictionary.
This, then, is about power. The Supreme Court-Legislature and its acolytes are drawn to power like flies to an untended stable. Power will allow this court to shape America into a new confederacy, the states part of a crazy-quilt patchwork of religious energy, tribal jealousies, government beneficence and malice – Heaven or Dante’s cellar, depending on region.
The New Court sees a country of two parts, a True America and a Trespassing America. Their mission is to set the law in a way that reshapes an America of old, one that segregates those who trespass against it.
Judge Roy Bean and John Woody were late-comers. The New Court will rescue America from its progressive descent. It will release sheriffs from Miranda’s manacles and states from their speed limits and public school budgets. The court of G.O.D. may find, even, that the Constitution forbids seat belts and permits smoking in the library. Men only.