Law/Justice

Americans love a powerful Supreme Court, but it’s not good for us

By Samuel Goldman The Week

Americans love courts.

Despite the jokes about sending attorneys to the bottom of the sea, legal disputes and judicial decisions play an outsize role in the national imagination, as they have for centuries. In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville noted “[t]here is virtually no political question in the United States that does not sooner or later resolve itself into a judicial question.” Because Americans are disproportionately represented by lawyers acting under a Constitution written mostly by lawyers that provides endless fodder for legal wrangling, Tocqueville said, “the language of the judiciary becomes the vulgar language. Thus the legal spirit, born in law schools and courtrooms, gradually spreads beyond their walls. It infiltrates all of society, as it were, filtering down to the lowest ranks, with the result that in the end all the people acquire some of the habits and tastes of the magistrate.”

That was 1835. Imagine if Tocqueville’s contemporaries had the chance to watch The Good Wife or read The Pelican Brief.

This love affair with the judicial branch is why so few commentators have noticed the most bizarre feature of the abortion debate, which reached a new crescendo this week: the fact that it’s up to the courts in the first place.

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