- May 5, 2021
Overreaching is so serious it has a whole list of idioms for it, like “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” “a bridge too far,” or “going overboard,” etc. Whatever we call it, we are amid political and cultural shifts that have pushed so far out, they are the very antithesis of American culture and
Overreaching is so serious it has a whole list of idioms for it, like “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” “a bridge too far,” or “going overboard,” etc. Whatever we call it, we are amid political and cultural shifts that have pushed so far out, they are the very antithesis of American culture and values.
One example is the politicization of journalism, which since colonial times in America was always viewed as an objective reporter of news events, yet today simply shrills for partial political advocacy. Another is basic education, that for centuries was a transmitter of essential knowledge and life skills, whereas now it is viewed as a promotion instrument of acceptable behavior and thinking.
Before our eyes, we are also seeing another idiom go by the wayside — that justice is blind. This is symbolized in a statue known as Lady Justice, a woman dressed in a Roman toga holding a sword and scales, symbolizing justice and fairness, and yet blindfolded. She can see but is choosing not to.
This imagery goes back hundreds of years to the Magna Carta in England, often considered the first constitution that protected individual English freedoms. The idea that “justice is blind” means that in a court of law, a person is tried on facts and evidence, not their parentage or position, determining justice as the law prescribes without bias.
In theory, therefore, a judge should not be representing a political party or position but ruling objectively based on what the law itself states or requires. Of course, in American history, our Supreme Court certainly violated those standards when they ruled on such matters as Japanese-American internment in Korematsu v. United States (1944), school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), and quite frankly Roe vs. Wade (1973), which which allowed for abortion.
The politicization of the courts is now in full view in our Commonwealth. Governor Wolf vetoed twelve bills passed by the legislature related to reopening the economy. These vetoes went to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and, in June of 2020, ruled that these vetoes were justified as the legislature had no right to terminate a governor’s declaration of a state of disaster emergency. We are now in the FOURTH of these 90-day declarations.
In the United States, 45 states have proposed more than 300 measures to limit governors’ executive authority. Kentucky and Ohio have had their state legislators override their governors’ vetoes. Similar action is happening in Indiana and Kansas, and even New York has had their heavily Democratic legislature striking a deal to limit the governor’s powers. All of these recognize that this is not a partisan battle but rather about good, democratic, balance-of-power governance.
Our beloved Commonwealth, however, has a Supreme Court that ruled in a different way. Without any precedence, they somehow viewed Governor Wolf’s unlimited fiat rulings perfectly fine in ruling 5-2 against legislative restraint passed by both houses of the Pennsylvania legislature. Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that our state has five Supreme Court judges from the Democratic Party who just happened to vote for the governor’s position and two from the Republican Party that voted against.
And this is why the necessity for the two constitutional amendment proposals in the upcoming May 18th primary, which, if voted YES by the voters, could not be overruled by the Commonwealth’s Supreme Court because it would be part of the state’s constitution! It is very, very sad that United States Supreme Court is rapidly becoming a super-legislature as well, rather than an honest and “blind” arbiter, which is why Democratic legislators in Washington, D.C. are pulling out all the stops to “pack the court” with four more Supreme Court judges to offset the three that President Trump appointed in his tenure.
On a local note, the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas for Lycoming County; President Judge Nancy L. Butts, Judge Marc F. Lovecchio, Judge Joy Reynolds McCoy, Judge Eric R. Linhardt, and Judge Ryan M. Tira, are all excellent examples of wise, prudent, and honestly objective judges of jurisprudence as can be found anywhere. I have been in their courtrooms on several occasions (observing, just observing), and I find myself marveling at their ability to navigate the demands for justice with practical compassion that would hopefully reduce recidivism. It’s comforting no know that the mask over the eyes is a snug fit, at least in Lycoming County.