Our Federal Judiciary is Incompatible with Democracy, says the New York Times

Can there be a king in a democratic society?

Can society be democratic if it is ruled by a king?

We are not talking here of a figurehead king who is a vestige of the past and a nod to tradition (as he is in England, Belgium, Holland, Sweden and suchlike countries) but a one who actually counts, the one who actually makes decisions that impact peoples’ lives, decisions that are enforced by the police?

If such actual king is implanted into a democracy, can it still remain a democracy?

Well, what differentiates democracy from a monarchy?

The answer is – the absence of arbitrary rule: in a monarchy, a king’s whim is a law; not so in democracy.

This established, please give a read to the fascinating piece in the New York Times on the brouhaha that followed judge Shira Scheindlin’s decision that New York police’s “stop and frisk” tactic was unconstitutional, causing outrage on the part of city’s administration (which, according to the article, accused her of being “biased against law enforcement”), and resulting in her removal from the case by the appellate court.

Never mind what “stop and frisk” is; what’s interesting is one judge’s fascinating admission, quoted in the article: “one judge, José A. Cabranes, expressed keen interest in why the city had not objected when Judge Scheindlin accepted the case under the “related” case rule [which was the cause of all the ado]. He then appeared to answer his own question, saying it was difficult “to strike, as it were, at the king, without knowing what the result will be.””

A king? In America? Indeed so. Per the article, “We know that a district judge is all powerful in that courtroom,” Judge Cabranes continued, “until of course the district judge is stopped.”

The judge is so all-powerful that he (or in that case, she) can flaunt rules, facts, and laws to make decisions that are utterly arbitrary, acting indeed as a monarch, dealing out injustice with impunity, given that the cases when “the district judge is stopped” are very few and far between.

What’s to be done about it? Should we tolerate this manifestation of arbitrary, monarchical rule in America centuries after we seemingly rid ourselves of king George III to “form a more perfect” – democratic – union? Or should we refuse to let judicial kings rule over us, by making federal judges follow the law, rather than their whim?

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