Gavel Grab

Opinion: Politicized Courts

In a column for the Greensboro News and Record’s Greensboro.com news website, Doug Clark laments the politicization of courts at the federal and state levels. “The courts have been in the political cross hairs for a long time,” he writes, adding that current political attacks and manipulation aimed at courts are doing little to improve their standing in public opinion.

Noting Sen. Ted Cruz’s accusation of “liberal judicial activism” following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, Clark writes that “Opinions about the courts often bounce around, depending on the latest big decision. ” He maintains that Cruz’s idea is unlikely to gain traction, since  the founders intended courts to be apolitical.

Yet despite this intention of the founders, Clark says, North Carolina’s legislature successfully adopted a change in its court structure that was tagged as political at the outset. The state adopted an option for Supreme Court retention elections, even though “Democrats in the legislature voted against this change, smelling a political rat.” Clark goes on to observe that the switch appears most likely to benefit an incumbent Republican justice, whose continued presence on the bench would  maintain Republicans’ 4-3 majority.  Yet he also expresses hope that retention elections may prove less politicized than the contested elections currently in place for justices’ initial selection to the bench.

“Justices should not be accountable only to those willing to spend money to elect or retain them,” Clark writes, although in the current political climate, cynicism about courts appears to be widespread.

Comments are off for this post

Comments are closed.