United States and the Illusion of judicial independence

If there has been any doubt at all, that the United States America’s political process is riven and driven by special interests, pervasive in all branches of its government, the current row over the leaked Supreme Court Opinion on the landmark judgment of Roe Vs Wade over abortion right is a decisive proof.

The leak, gave effect both to the partisan affiliations and special interests that reach right through to the pinnacle of the U.S judicial system, exposing the fallacy of judicial independence, most stridently advertised by the U.S media and political establishment as the characteristic hallmark of democracy.

The 49 old judicial precedent of the Roe Vs Wade look set to be overturned by the leaked opinion reported to have been drafted by Justice Samuel Alito, who has written that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division”.

The point that is clearly reflected in the instance case of the U.S Supreme Court opinion on the iconic and landmark ruling or judicial decision is that the Justices of the supreme court of the United States are lining up, according to their partisan affiliations. Reports suggest four of the other Republican-appointed justices: Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Breth Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barret-have all voted with Justice Samuel Alito in the conference held among the Justices after hearing oral arguments last December and the same Republican Party appointed Justices of the U.S supreme court have remained intact to overturn the abortion. On the other hand, the three Democratic Party appointed Justices-Stephen Breyer, Soma Sotomayor and Elena Kagan are strenuously working on dissent. Chief Justice John Roberts, who has written article to confirm the authenticity of the draft opinion, however denounced the leak and disclosure.

However, here we are not so much concerned about the merit or demerits of the issues about the substance of the ruling in Roe vs Wade and this is not to underrate its significance in U.S judicial history. The key point is simply that the much vaunted judicial independence, which is voraciously claimed to underpin the U.S political system, is largely a hoax that cannot stand the rigor of objective facts and reality as the current issue of the supreme court leaked opinion has shown. It is no secret that each of the dominant parties in the United States-the Democrats and Republicans struggles intensely and even desperately to have judges identified as sympathetic to their partisan values and interests appointed to the supreme court and such issues of partisan value-identity as abortion rights inevitably splits the supreme court along partisan lines and render such claims of judicial independence ostensibly as mere tool of political manipulation by the factions of the U.S ruling establishment represented by the two dominant political parties.
While the over hyped judicial independence of the U.S political system may likely, to have attracted international attention and even admiration, in reality it existed only in name, as the appointment of judges to highest court in the country is evidently derived from political partisan interests. Key decisions of the Supreme Court and opinions rendered by it, considerably reflect the partisan leaning of the judges and basically come down to the victory of one political party over the other. The political parties themselves, especially the two dominant parties are epitome of the aggregation of special interests for whom circumstances could swing to either vile or vindictive in strategy but never at any time acting in the broadest interests of the American people.

The recurring decimal of gun violence which is currently causing outrage and anger is something of a political game to the two major political parties. Some seating U.S presidents have wept openly at the vicious turn of gun violence in the U.S but has been completely helpless in taking any measures to ameliorate the carnage of gun violence. Worst still, bipartisan legislation or judicial intervention is profoundly and pathetically remote from engaging one of the existential issues that broadest section of the American people are obviously and evidently concerned. The freeze on any meaningful decision, whether executive, legislative and judicial or a combination of all, to address a life and death issue that most Americans are concerned reflect the paralysis of a political system deeply afflicted by entrenched and viciously partisan special interests.

Judicial independence basically is the institutionally protected framework of the judiciary to interpret the national will reflected in the laws that are representative of the broadest values of the people un-tainted by special interests or vitiated by technicalities of a representative of special interests.

The rule of law can only be demonstrably substantive, if the laws themselves are not victim of extreme partisan politicization and rather reflect the values of the broadest section of the people and continuously evolve in the direction of engaging their growing concerns tailored to improvements in their living conditions. Only in such context is rule of law and judicial independence, of practical relevance to building a broadly inclusive society, where people are not the object of a political system and its process but the key driver and sharper of its continuous growth and development.

The U.S claim of judicial independence and democratic process, free of vicious partisan and special interest cannot pass the test of a rigorous practical examination and yet Washington throws all these as its foreign policy tools with which it rail-roads developing countries, especially in Africa to toe its line.

From the evidence of the opinion of the U.S Supreme Court on the issue of abortion rights, the U.S judicial system is seriously politicized, reflecting the existential struggles of the various factions of the U.S political establishment represented by the two dominant or major political parties and more tangentially, the two major political parties abuse the judicial process while seeking mileage and advantage over another. The narrow interest of the two major political parties and the various pockets of special interest groups within them, trumps over the broad and public interests of the American people.

The stalemate in critical and existential issues like the widening and exploding gun violence and the consequent judicial and legislative lethargy to address them, exclusionary and identity politics that consigns some certain groups to the margins and fringes of U.S politics, and economic crunch that has hit hard especially the white working middle class and the bulk of minority communities have all burst to the for. Special interests- dominated media and other state institutions are looking increasingly unable to contain them and manage it in the routine formula of the so-called “open and free society”, defined only in the context of the hegemony of the special interests of the two major parties.

For the United States and its political system, traditional clichés and rhetoric, crafted cleverly to disguise the real and actual nature of its political process is fast unraveling as the lids of objective reality is lifted off the façade of a system in desperate need of a basic democratic imperative of putting the people first.

Onunaiju is a commentator on international affairs based in Abuja