Earlier this month Justice Ginsburg was doing an interview in Egypt regarding their drafting of a new constitution when she said:
“I would not look to the US Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012”.
There’s no context that I’m leaving out that changes the underlying meaning of her words. She did follow it up by outlining that there are more modern ones that focus on basic human rights (as if life, liberty, and property aren’t all encompassing) and that even though the U.S. is one of the youngest nations, we have one of the oldest Constitutions in use. These caveats, however, do not change her original statement’s context which indicates she doesn’t feel our Constitution is the best constitution or even a very good one worth emulating.
Message to Justice Ginsburg—it’s the oldest one in use because it works better than all the others! Are we not the most powerful nation in the world? That should be a sign that it has done pretty well by us.
It would have been a different story if she said something to the effect of “I think the U.S. Constitution is a great document and worth emulating, but there are certainly other modern ones that are good as well if ours doesn’t suit you.” That would have at least shown a healthy respect for our Constitution without trying to shove it down their throat. However, there were no compliments or even respect shown to our Constitution whatsoever.
U.S. Supreme Court Justices are required to make certain oaths upon taking office. I have outlined them below. Consider the following as it relates to Ginsburg’s words:
The Constitutional Oath
“I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
The Judicial Oath
“”I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _________ under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.”
As a citizen, if someone disrespects the Constitution, ironically, that’s their constitutional right; I support that no matter how idiotic I think they are. But, when someone who has taken the aforementioned oaths does so while in office, then that raises an ethical issue as it relates to their job.
I don’t believe she should commit hara-kiri, or even be impeached; her actions weren’t criminal. But as a matter of principle, she should be honest about her lack of respect for the Constitution and step down if she doesn’t feel a duty to uphold it as it is written.
The purpose of a Supreme Court Justice is to protect the minority from the majority based on the Constitution as it is written. But based on her statement, it is logical to have concern that she may base her decisions on what she believes the Constitution should be, not what it is. This is legislating from the bench, and it’s a serious threat to the system of checks and balances that ensure our government’s limitations of power over its people.
The legislative branch (Congress) enacts laws, the executive branch (President) is charged with enforcing laws, and the judicial branch (Supreme Court) determines the constitutionality of laws. The Congress is checked by the president via veto power and the Supreme Court via the striking down of laws they determine are unconstitutional. No branch is allowed to do the job of another.
In order for Justice Ginsburg to attain the position of U.S. Supreme court justice, she was first picked by the sitting president (Bill Clinton). Then once appointed, she was called to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where she was asked questions about how she would adjudicate. The questions generally circle around whether she will honor the Constitution as written, or whether she would try to legislate from the bench—the latter being rather frowned upon.
The honorable thing for Justice Ginsburg to do would be to confess that, “I have decided I no longer have a passion for defending the U.S. Constitution nor ultimately believe in its principles. As a result, I feel it necessary to step down out of respect for the American people and the office of the U.S. Supreme Court so that someone with a more dutiful concern for the role may hold that seat in honor.”
I’m not holding my breath…