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CHERYL SEAL REPORTS: Will Sandra Day O'Connor Choose Justice - Or the Old Boy Network?

by Cheryl Seal Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2003 at 9:28 AM

Whether she likes the position or not, Sandra Day O'Connor has been shoved onto history's stage, front and center with a vote that will decide whether America remains a democracy for and by the people.

There is a growing consensus among legal observers and court watchers that the Supreme Court took the Cheney "Secret Energy Task Force List" for one reason only" To protect Cheney, not to deliver justice to the American people. Says Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch: "This is a completely unprecedented attempt to overextend executive privilege. It calls into question the integrity of the court system in this country -- particularly because we're 3-and-0 right now." This means that although THREE COURTS, each higher than the one before, ruled against Cheney, directly or indirectly (the third court refused to even hear the case), FOUR JUSTICES in the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case anyway. This is usually done when the justices in question disagree with the lower court's rulings.

This is a pattern with our sadly corrupt Supreme Court now. The appeal system is supposed to be the internal check and balance mechanism by which the integrity of our national judicial system is maintained. Appeals to the Supreme Court are supposed to be reserved for cases where the rights of the PEOPLE are at stake. To insure these rights, laws must sometimes be reaffirmed ( (Roe Vs. Wade) or overturned (Jim Crow type laws). A Supreme Court audience is also justified in cases where the laws or the evidence associated with a case are so dubious that a definitive interpretation is required (the Padilla case, for example). Without question the appeals system was never meant to be used as a rich man's way to ram through custom-designed justice. It was not meant as a tool by which a political party could reinterpret the laws of the land to their advantage. Don't like a decision? Buy your way to another court. Alas, that is precisely what is being done by industrial polluters, greedy developmers, groups with religious agendas, and corporations (notably Microsoft). They all know that the Supreme Court has become the most special interest-friendly court in the land. Meanwhile, this sort of appeals process is something none of us "common folk" can afford. .

What is especially disturbing is that the Cheney case is no ordinary civil case. The Bush/cheney energy plan will affect each and every American. It will take a major chunk of the tax dollars from the pockets of each and every taxpayer and distribute that money in a way that cannot be undone later. This being the case, is it unreasonable for Americans to demand to know who is deciding their energy and tax dollar futures? America is supposed to be a representativ government for and by the people, not an oligarchy or a corporation. Yet this administration has repeatedly behaved as if the US were a giant corporation, with the citizens of the US having less say in "executive decisions" than even the lowliest stockholder could expect - even when those executive decisions impact them critically. Afterall, the choice of whether to invest tax dollars into coal-fired power plants or conservation and electricity distribution renovation is a life and death issue. Chose coal and 30,000 or so people will continue to die each year from coal combustion pollution-related respiratory illnesses. Chose conservation, renovation and efficiency and those same people who would have died may be alive to see another Christmas with their familes.

That Cheney has refused to reveal his task force list obviously proves he has something damning to hide - something that would enrage the American people and thus could hardly be in their best interests. Otherwise, why bother to hide the facts? If the High Court sanctions Cheney's deceit, it will simultaneously overturn the very ideals upon which this nation is based: a government that is representative, transparent, and accountable to the American people. The USA will on that day cease to be a democracy or even a Republic and will be officially transformed into a monopolistic corporation. Citizens will be reduced to the status of mere "corporate employees" in a bizarre system where the employees PAY the employer for the privilege of being exploited.

There is only one hope for America when the case goes to the court, and that is that Sandra Day O'Connor finds her conscience and her voice. I vividly recall the day when O'Connor was confirmed as the first woman Supreme Court justice. What a thrill that was for American females of all ages! Suddenly, here was a new and exciting role model that opened up a bold new horizon. Little girls aspired to be like the "Lady Justice," at least the ideal she represented to them: Strength, clearsightedness, wisdom.

In recent years, alas, O'Connor has marred this ideal by wading into the shallow end of the pool where the scum of corporate politics floats. Instead of proving to the world why Justice is traditionally depicted as a blindfolded woman - the embodiment of compassion, lack of bias, and uncompromising quest for the truth - she has become one of the Old Boys. By 2000, O'Connor seemed to have traded her "blindfold and scales" in for a big fat cigar.

When O'Connor became the "deal breaking" vote in recent weeks in a few extremely critical cases, notably McCain-Feingold, I felt a surge of hope and admiration. Those cannot have been easy decisions for the lady, as she has undoubtedly been badgered, harangued, perhaps even threatened by supporters and/or members of the Old Boy Network. But she showed once more the courage and strength that little girls - and boys - need so desperately to have modeled for them now. Each subsequent decision O'Connor makes out of step with the Old Boys will be more difficult as the resistance grows. But each such step will, in turn, represent a greater triumph for real justice.

In any case, with the critical Bush/Cheney decision and others looming, O'Connor's soul will be weighed in the balance, as surely as the laws she considers. Will she rise to the occasion and claim a proud legacy before leaving the Court for retirement? Or will she give in and take the easy way out?

The eyes of little girls everywhere....and the ghosts of her predecessors will be watching.

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