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Mike Papantonio Headshot

The Judicial Destruction of Democracy

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During the Bush years, the Democrats tried desperately to maintain even the slightest degree of relevance while the Bush Republicans:
- Decimated our economy;
- Lied their way into 2 unnecessary wars;
- Spied on us, wiretapped us, read our mail, monitored our computers;
- While they sold our environment to fat-cat corporate thugs;
- While they allowed Wall Street to take over control of our government.

While all that putrid Republican conduct was playing itself out, the Democrats and most Americans appeared to be virtually unaware of how the Grand Ol' Party was doing its most serious damage. The GOP and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce knew where they could do the most harm to democracy and at the same time improve the balance sheets for their corporate pals.

It was in the Court system -- the civil justice system where judges are often the last line in the sand for protecting Americans from the type of reckless criminal conduct that the Bush Republicans carried out for eight dark years. While Americans were distracted trying to figure out where the hell the WMDs were, the Republicans were packing the federal trial courts and appellate courts from the bottom up. Not with talented, experienced jurists, but mostly with political hacks who had proven their commitment to right wing ideology completely enough that they were rewarded with a black robe and a federal courtroom gavel.

For example, Jay Bybee wasn't appointed as a federal court appellate judge because of an impressive history as a jurist. Bybee had never distinguished himself as a great legal mind at all right up to the time that he helped draft a blueprint for how Bush and Cheney could torture and even murder Muslims housed at Gitmo. Bybee is exhibit "A" for the analysis of how a judge received an appointment during the Bush years. Just be an ideologue yes man or woman. Just be a neo-nut Republican more than you are an insightful, compassionate, fair-minded jurist and you were on your way to a federal trial court or appellate court appointment.

At best, the only judiciary skirmishes that America was paying attention to took place at the U.S. Supreme Court level with neo-con superstars like Alito and Roberts elbowing their way onto the highest Court in America. But we ignored the smaller appointment skirmishes. It was the overwhelming number of appointments the GOP made in the lower Courts that will ultimately make our federal judiciary into a banana Republic styled civil justice system. That will occur especially if Obama fails to correct the problem. We are left with appointments like Priscilla Owen, Jamie Brown, Thomas Griffith, and Jeff Sessions. Do a quick internet review of the creepy backgrounds of those federal appointments. It will give you insight into what the GOP accomplished in the eight years that they filled 65% of the judiciary with their handpicked Huns.

While America was distracted with an imploding economy, joblessness, and a war based on pure fraud, the GOP was busy creating a Frankenstein monster in the federal judiciary. Obama now has an opportunity to reverse the systemic harm that the GOP unleashed on America. But Obama and his warm, fuzzy advisers don't seem to get it. In an entire year, Obama made a mere 19 appointments in the federal judiciary. That leaves about 122 vacancies that should be filled with real judges instead of the anti-abortion, anti-environment, anti-labor, anti-consumerists, pro-corporate, pro-war, pro-Wall Street political hacks that have infected our Courts.

Mr. Obama, you have the votes right now, but all that may change after midterm elections. Get busy. As a constitutional law professor, surely you know what is at stake here.