Jim Crawford: A supreme trust is on the line this week

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 23, 2024

The Supreme Court stands as a pillar of our democracy, beside Congress and the executive branch as co-equals in preserving and protecting our Constitution. 

But the court has no enforcement means, no army of its own, other than the trust of the people and the willingness of the other branches of government to enforce the rulings of the court.

This week, all the trust in the court is at an apex over two decisions it will make. 

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First, having heard arguments about Colorado’s Supreme Court to keep Trump off the Republican primary ballot based upon the plain language of the 14th Amendment, the court appears likely to rule against Colorado. 

That ruling, should it occur, stands against the conservative court’s embrace of the nebulous concept of “originalism” and against the simple language and history of what constitutes an “insurrection.” 

There is no doubt that the actions of Jan. 6, led by Donald Trump, were intended to stop the peaceful transfer of power of the presidency.

Trump’s followers attacked the U.S. Capitol and have faced convictions for their actions, including several convictions for seditious conspiracy, legal language translating as participation in an insurrection.

A ruling by the court against Colorado will clearly violate the Constitution and permanently damage the power of the state courts versus the Supreme Court, undermining long-held constitutional respect for states’ rights in governing. 

Will the court undermine a foundational principle of state independence to protect the ex-president?

The second decision the court must make is whether to hear a case Trump is requesting setting aside a federal appeals court ruling that he, as ex-president, is not immune from prosecution.

The appeals court ruling was unanimous by a three-judge panel and is based upon sound legal premises according to legal experts. 

Further, there is no rational basis to ever grant legal immunity for any person, most certainly a president, from our laws and justice before those laws.

If the court agrees to hear the appeals case it will mean Donald Trump will not face justice until after the 2024 election, at which time, if elected, he would, by Department of Justice precedent, not be subject to prosecution. 

Such an action by the court could only be explained as an intentional act to protect the ex-president from the laws of the land and place him above the law forever. Is that a decision Americans could accept?

The Supreme Court should not make these mistakes in judgment, mistakes that would further damage its credibility before the American people. 

Already the country is concerned about the ethical conduct of two conservative justices for accepting lavish gifts and trips from conservative supporters. 

Already the court is distrusted for its Dobbs ruling, overturning Roe and ending a half-century legal right for women. 

Already the court is questioned for granting an extension of gun rights with the nation torn by massive public gun violence. 

Already the court is buffeted by its denial of student loan reductions and its decisions that have impeded the actions to respond to climate change.

Gallup’s long-term polling finds that trust in the Supreme Court is at or near an all-time low in its job performance at 41 percent. Additionally, 39 percent of Americans think the court acts too conservatively, and only 17 percent think the court is too liberal.

The Supreme Court has already been “packed” by Republicans denying two Democratic appointments then filled by Trump candidates. 

Acting now, the court must protect its integrity and its independence by ruling against the ex-president and for the constitution. 

Otherwise, expect Congress to reluctantly reshape the court with more justices, more regulatory guidance regarding ethical conduct and a great deal less public trust.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.