The danger of precedent

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You’re gonna hear about the Supreme Court a lot in the coming days and weeks. They’re hearing a case that could change the course of human events in the U.S. for a long time to come (or not). It really depends on how the court decides the case it heard yesterday, the one about abortion and limiting it.

One of the ways the court makes it’s decisions is based on precedent. Precedent is used to help guide the court in making decisions related to issues of the past. A court obviously can’t really know if a decision they are making in the current day will be used as precedent, but they certainly know in the present when they are using the precedent set by earlier courts.

One of the things about SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) is that it relies heavily on precedents set by previous courts. This is kind of a nod to the fact that those justices have made a correct ruling based on interpretation of the Constitution, intent of the Founders, etc., etc. Therefore, most decisions coming from the court often don’t step on previous decisions and most often don’t overturn precedent.

But, there have been times where that has taken place and it was no small matter.

The best example of a court reversing it’s own precedent (and really the best one to apply now to abortion) is the 1896 case of Plessy vs. Ferguson. The precedent that was set by the court as a result of that case became known as the “separate but equal” doctrine. Essentially it established that, for all intents and purposes, segregation was legal as long as accommodations were equal for both races. Of course, we know the application of that doctrine didn’t really get applied that way and was the basis for all sorts of discriminatory and racist laws. Over and over there challenges to those racist laws and over and over the court upheld decisions in favor of racism simply because the justification was the precedent of Plessy. That precedent would eventually be overturned by a different and later court, which set a new precedent. The 1954 case of Brown vs. The Board of Education turned Plessy on it’s head by deciding in the case that separate was not equal but inherently unequal. Thus, sanctioned and legal racism was stamped out by a future court righting the wrongs of a previous court. There was a new understanding and interpretation and it was decided that the precedent was wrong, so they fixed it and made it right. It took 58 years to make that morally wrong decision, morally right.

Today, some 43 years after the Roe vs. Wade court decision SCOTUS has a chance to right another wrong. A chance to reverse a precedent that has cost millions and millions of human lives – those of unborn children. A chance to stand on what is morally right, saving the lives of babies, instead of standing on what is morally wrong, killing babies. It doesn’t seem like this should be that tough of a decision. But, apparently it is.

Going against public opinion isn’t an easy thing and I am sure it wasn’t that easy in the Brown decision, but it was the right thing to do. Lots of things have changed in 43 years since Roe was decided. Healthcare, medical knowledge, and technology has gotten a lot better in those years, so denying that life starts at conception is backwards as saying the Sun revolves around the Earth.

The arguments from the liberal side of the bench were a little strange yesterday. Sonia Sotomayor is standing on precedent and arguing for maintaining the status quo simple so the court can take on the appearance of legitimacy? Isn’t it less legitimate if it doesn’t correct precedent and right a wrong? To me that seems like a weird argument to make when talking about morally wrong judgements. Can you imagine if the court argued in 1954’s Brown decision that they needed to keep the Plessy precedent to “survive” and remain legitimate?

Anyone else find that strange?

Anyone else care about this topic? What do you think?

Ultimately, precedent can be a positive way to look at pending cases and it can be used as a guide to current issues, but if precedent can’t ever be corrected (despite public opinion) it’s a dangerous thing to stand on.

Precedent

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The war on your rights, freedoms, and beliefs is about to get worse. Thankfully, there have been some changes in the Supreme Court that will (hopefully) change the trend of erosion that has been taking place. That, however, won’t stop those on the left from waging a war on the Bill of Rights.

A prime example of such would be the attach on student rights. The indoctrination of students has been going on for years and will continue as, unfortunately, there are not enough people in education that come from the conservative side of the aisle. Everywhere you look, from K-16, there are liberals dominating the arena of education and they are bent on destroying anything that smells of traditional, conservative values.

Last week, a 3rd grader felt the wrath of such an attack. All because a face mask had a message that the principal apparently found offensive. Double standard? Of course. There have been other messages on face masks that didn’t offend, though it may have been to some. But, this little girl gets called out for her message – one that was only directed to herself.

“Jesus love me.”

Not “Jesus loves you.”

The former is a personal message, meant for the person. The second is a message of projection, meant and directed at others.

I have a feeling the school district and the principal will be issuing apologies fairly soon. They are totally in the wrong and the Supreme Court has already addressed and established precedent with related to student speech, including symbolic speech. So, there should be a reversal fairly shortly.

Should schools protect students from some messages? Of course. The courts have established this too, when it comes to messages and images that would be inappropriate for the age group as well as something that would be deemed a disruption to the educational process. So, anything that promotes illegal drugs, illegal actions, offensive language, sex, etc. The definition of “offensive language” has changed over the years and seems to be subject to the whims of whomever is in charge. There has been an obvious double standard here when it comes to liberal and conservative values. So, that seems to waver, even though the established “offensive language” is really based on the seven words that supposedly can’t be broadcast (even this has changed).

Anyway, I am glad that someone has challenged the principal and district, though the district (as far as I can tell) hasn’t come out in support of the principal. Students, when at school, should be able to see and hear both sides of an issue and make a determination for themselves, not be indoctrinated one way or another.

Precedent can be dangerous

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Sound the alarms! Everyone to the streets! Crisis! Crisis! Oh my! Let the fear-mongering begin.

Alright people, let’s calm down.

Precedent can be dangerous. The Supreme Court has shown this in the past and is showing it again in the present. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

A court can’t rely solely, or place too much weight on precedent (past SCOTUS decisions), or things can’t/don’t/won’t change for the better.

If the Supreme Court never breaks with precedent, then it isn’t actually doing it’s job and would just continue to “pile on” bad past decisions.

Think of it this way – as a parent, are you allowed to change your mind in how you parent a child if a decision you made previously didn’t have the intended outcome? What if you didn’t have that ability or you were required to maintain the bad decision because that was the way it was always done in the past? Yeah, I don’t think any of us would like that.

The Supreme Court should be no different. Sometimes, the court has to fix its own bad decisions from the past. Prime example: Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896). The “separate but equal” precedent was never a good decision to start with and everyone knows for all intents and purposes that it would not be applied equally. For the next 58 years there were lots of challenges to Plessy and that precedent. The court held with precedent. It wasn’t until 1954 that the court finally broke with precedent and decided that “separate but equal” was not equal in Brown vs. Board (1954), correcting a previously bad decision.

Those who protest about breaking precedent now, in essence, are arguing again correcting previously badly or erroneous interpreted decisions. Is that what you really want from SCOTUS? To never fix their errors?

Skeletons, oh the skeletons!

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Everyone has skeletons. This is a fact.

No one is perfect. We all have things in our past that we likely regret. We all have things in our past we would rather not have others know about. We all have things in our past that we’re embarrassed about. We all have things in our past we would probably like to take back or change.

The expectation that those who are in the public life, whether in government service or celebrity, be perfect and have no skeletons in their past is absurd. This is an impossible standard and one that no one can meet. Quite frankly, we, the American public, should be ashamed of ourselves for expecting this standard and for mistakenly trying to create it. Not all skeletons can be ignored and some most definitely shouldn’t be; however, there is also a limit to what should be considered when determining the true character of a person. Time and behavior have to be considered. Character isn’t built in a day, for good reason.

If you have ever considered a public life, or even if you haven’t considered it but some how end up with one, you better keep your head down. “They” are coming for you! It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done, how long ago it was, or even what side you’re on. “They” are gonna find you and get you. It doesn’t take evidence. It doesn’t take witnesses. It doesn’t take corroboration. It just takes accusations and allegations. No proof needed. It doesn’t matter if you’re innocent or not, maybe the skeleton doesn’t even exist. No matter. “They” are gonna get you!

Our Founders are rolling over in their graves. None of them were perfect, but at least they understood that about others nor did they expect it.

If you are currently in a place of power, in the government, a celebrity (major or minor), or just a regular person…you should just stop doing whatever you’re doing and resign. Go live in a hole and interact with no one, because eventually your skeletons will come out of the closet and no one is exempt from being haunted by them.

Cultural Appropriation

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So, there’s this thing where people get offended when other people appropriate (I guess that means “assume”) someone else’s culture. In most cases, I think it is a form of flattery rather than a form of insult. People tend to imitate that which they admire, but we don’t need to get into the psychology of it…

However, the outrage only seems to go so far as when it is someone they generally disagree with – in part or in totality. (Case in point – most people, and I mean liberals and conservatives alike watched his shows, thought Trump was fine and dandy as entertainment but make him the president and all the sudden the guy and his administration can’t breathe without being protested.) When the offender is “on your team” well, then it can be rationalized away as OK or justifiable.

Where is the outrage people? Why aren’t we seeing an uproar on this particular appropriation of culture? *I don’t think it is, but the point can prove useful I think.*