Ignoring the law legally

It’s abundantly clear that Republicans are finding federalism inconvenient. In a federalist system, power is distributed between the federal and state governments. States can’t do certain things that the U.S. Constitution delegates to the federal government, and visa versa. “Inconvenient” means these states want federalism when it works for them only. What’s new is that when they don’t want it, they just pretend it doesn’t exist and will play a game of intimidation instead to see if Democrats and the federal government will blink.

Republicans don’t want big government interfering in life unless it’s convenient to them. It’s hard to go to any red state these days without discovering the big hand of the state. It’s most noticeable when it comes to abortion rights and LGBTQIA+ rights. At best in a red state a pregnant woman will get six weeks to decide whether to carry the pregnancy to term. They’ll probably have to go out of state to get an abortion, even a medication abortion. There will be lots of confusion and misinformation trying to claim a right that was taken for granted until last June. In some states, local legislators are debating whether it’s okay to prosecute people that help women get an abortion out of state even if they don’t move the woman across state lines. It effectively makes certain conduct illegal in states where legislators have no jurisdiction. It’s the opposite of federalism. One state is granting itself the right to override the rights of people in different states if the behavior is against local law.

This is no way to run a railroad or a state. It instantly makes a huge mess of a system of government that’s worked fine since 1789 or so. Unfortunately, some federal judges who should know better are messing things up too. A federal judge in Texas thinks he can ban the mifepristone nationwide, a drug that’s been approved as safer than taking a Tylenol for more than twenty years and is widely used for medication abortions. As if that weren’t enough, the same week a judge in Washington State ruled just the opposite, allowing what the Texas judge just overturned.

They do it because they can and they know it will take years for these cases to get through the courts. In the past, such actions were largely not done. It would not occur to a federal judge to overturn regulatory agencies like the FDA that specialize in evidence-based approval or rejection of medical treatments. It makes no sense for fifty states to have fifty different policies. Our constitution realizes this makes no sense, which is why by law drug approval is a function of the executive branch. That is until you get sufficiently conservative judges on the bench for whom the law and federalism is suddenly flexible. Get enough of these judges and it doesn’t matter what the law says, only what our judges will decide to uphold.

It’s a usurpation and corruption of federalism at the basic level. And it’s clearly going to the very top. Just last week we discovered that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has not been reporting income correctly on his taxes. Thomas doesn’t seem particularly bothered by his twenty plus year mistake. He said he was told what he was doing was legal.

There should be no one with less excuse for missing this than a Supreme Court justice. You literally aren’t supposed to be able to be a judge without a history of being able to impartially read the law. The whole point of being a judge is to be able to make these discernments – you read the damn law! In the past, much less egregious conduct led to the resignation of a justice, Abe Fortis. It’s unlikely that Clarence Thomas will feel he should resign for much more massive and longer lasting mistakes. He’s untroubled that his mother is living rent free courtesy of a billionaire Thomas because friends with, and who provides lavish and free vacations to Thomas. Thomas is clearly okay with his conduct. Apparently, it never crossed his mind that his conduct was unlawful or unethical. Ignorance can’t possibly be an excuse.

There’s lots of this stuff going on these days, mostly in red states. The points are always the same: to grant more privileges mostly to richer white people while taking away benefits from everyone else: it’s to make society more unequal and less egalitarian. It’s being done so brazenly and openly and our largely right wing court system is more than okay with it. They seem to be in favor of it.

It used to be you would change the law If fundamental changes were needed. What’s new is that in red states, they don’t even bother to follow the established process. They simply change it and wait to see whether our corrupt judicial system will uphold it. If they can’t get rid of federalism through a constitutional process, they don’t have the patience to try. It’s so much easier to just ignore it and make it so. Following law and precedents is for wimps.

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