Chief Justice John Roberts’ Voting Rights Decision

When U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts made his decision in June 2013 to declare Section 4 (b) of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional it was either a gut wrenching decision or a time for him to celebrate having finally achieved a goal that he had been chasing ever since he graduated from Harvard. By siding with those who were in favor of declaring Section 4 (b) unconstitutional, in a 5-4 decision – quite reminiscent of the Bush v. Gore decision in 2000 that made Bush 43 President of the United States of America; he rendered the Voting Rights Act virtually powerless.

Was his decision to all but destroy this piece of legislation that the U.S. Department of Justice “considered to be the most effective piece of civil rights legislation ever enacted in the country” a gut wrenching decision? Was it something that kept him awake at night as he contemplated the devastating impact that it would have on all of those who would be hurt by it if his decision was wrong or was it something that was more closely related to what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg suggested this Voting Rights decision was in her dissent statement?

According to the New York Times, in her dissent statement Justice Ginsberg, in referring to a case in Alabama that disparaged black people said; “These conversations occurred not in the 1870s or even the 1960s – they took place in 2010. ” ‘Hubris’ is a fit word for today’s demolition of the [Voting Rights Act] V.R.A.” No one really knows whether it was a gut wrenching decision or a time of celebration for Chief Justice Roberts except Chief Justice Roberts. Why don’t you read A Dream Undone then decide for yourself which of the two you think that it was?

Even if ultimately it turns out that his decision is more closely associated with the statement that Justice Ginsberg made in her dissent statement than it does to having been a gut wrenching decision, that does not make Chief Justice Roberts a terrible person. It simply means that politics and politicians impact upon all of us including U.S. Supreme Court Justices.

Sometimes I find myself thinking, wow, wouldn’t it be great to get the appointment of U.S. Supreme Court Justices out of the hands of presidents who always seek to put Justices into place who will support them and their decisions rather than seeking out judges who will simply interpret the law and apply it based on those interpretations? Then I think, but what would we replace that system with? Would it work? If it did work, would it prove to be better or worse? And then when I can’t come up with a better system, I settle down and accept the status quo.

Besides, if I decided that we should just dump the system anyway for something much better while not having any real idea of how to create that ‘something much better’, it would make me like all of those Republican lawmakers who want to repeal Obamacare. Sorry, Republicans, I just could not resist the ‘gotcha’ opportunity. But sometimes when I think about politics and politicians I can’t help but to wonder why we as voters allowed things to deteriorate to this point. I know how it happened; we failed to fulfill our civic responsibilities, which includes voting. But why did we become so complacent that we allowed it to happen? Why did we ignore the fact that many of those that we elected were progressively becoming more corrupt?

Although I have tried many times to resolve within myself why I repeatedly find myself lamenting the fact that there are actually elected officials who claim to love America and our way of life and yet work to prevent American citizens from voting simply based on politics and to enhance their prospect of keeping their job, I still have not arrived at a definitive answer. I know that these officials are politicians – and I know how politicians operate yet something inside of me keeps insisting that this cannot actually be the case even though I am witnessing it with my own eyes. I keep struggling to accept the fact that anyone who loves our country and have sworn to protect it would work to prevent American citizens from voting simply based on politics and to enhance their prospect of keeping their job.

Perhaps there are many others who are struggling with problems similar to mine when it comes to politics; they just cannot bring themselves to believe that these politicians whom many of us hold in such high esteem would ever let us down. The bottom line is that we can avoid putting our Supreme Court Justices in the position of having to make these 5-4 decisions by electing people to office whose primary concern is to serve our country with honor. And if the occasion should arise when a decision like the Voting Rights Act decision or any other decision is made that is questionable and requires congress to work together to get it right, they will be able to work together in a healthy bipartisan environment and do so.


Eulus Dennis