Dahlia Lithwick writes about the masterful attention Republicans have given to the judicial system in The Washington Monthly:
For anyone considering the 2012 election’s importance to the future of the American judiciary, one fact stands out: next November, Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be seventy-nine years old. If a Republican wins the presidential election, he or she may have an opportunity to seat Ginsburg’s successor, replacing the Supreme Court’s most reliably liberal jurist with a conservative. That would mean that the Court—currently balanced almost elegantly between four liberals, four conservatives, and the moderate conservative Anthony Kennedy—would finally tilt decisively to the right…Kennedy, who is ranked tenth in that study, will be seventy- six next November.
But it’s not just the Supreme Court that would tilt further right. The high court only hears seventy-some cases each year. The vast majority of disputes are resolved by the federal appellate courts, which are the last stop for almost every federal litigant in the country. And the one legacy of which George W. Bush can be most proud is his fundamental transformation of the lower federal judiciary—a change that happened almost completely undetected by the left
Beverly Mann responds in an e-mail back to me after I sent her the link:
I love this article. My favorite paragraph is:
Why have the Republicans been so much more effective at dragging the judicial branch rightward than Democrats have been in yanking it back? Focus, mainly. Since the Meese revolution of the mid-1980s, the GOP has been better at constitutional messaging, better at mobilizing the electorate, and better at laying out a judicial vision than liberals, who still seem to believe that unless the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade (or perhaps the Affordable Care Act), judges are not really a voting issue.
It’s dismayed and enraged me for years—at this point, decades—that most of the vocal left (the people who gain media attention) act as if the only legal issue of real importance is abortion rights. Okay, now some of them have added torture and Gitmo as issues important enough to mention, but that’s pretty much it. But actually, it would be hard at this point to even explain how deeply, how profoundly, how thoroughly, these judges and justices have changed the very system of law in this country, largely by simply routinely, categorically denying access to federal court, by erecting ever more unattainable, ridiculous, and complex procedural requirements to have a federal court decide a case “on the merits” rather than on a procedural issue—or by quietly denying meaningful court review if access is granted, by pretending to have granted it but by issuing a formulaic ruling making clear that what happened was that the outcome was never really at issue and that the excuses for it were filled in later.