Supreme Court’s Sordid Legacy

John Johnson

By John Johnson II

Former President George Washington was instrumental in the establishment of the Supreme Court in 1787. However, it was the Judiciary Act of 1789, which codified it into law thereby giving it power to force governmental officials to comply with the law. Washington, a slave owner, nominated six white men to serve as Justices. Of the six Justices, four also were slave owners. Thus, began the initial packing of the Supreme Court as well as its sordid legacy.

Consequently, Washington’s packing of the Court with slave owners imminently insured the preeminence of slavery for centuries in America. Unsurprisingly, presidents of either party have continued to pack the Court with justices whose predisposition aligns with theirs. It’s like the practice used by Casinos of packing decks of cards to ensure that the house win and gamblers lose.

For example, Senator McConnell prevented President Obama from nominating a Supreme Court Justice, which would’ve created a Court more in tune with progressive societal changes. Republicans’ insistence of a conservative/traditional interpretation of the Constitution is not only ludicrous but steeped in racism.

Consequently, to unveil the Court’s sordid legacy, it’s important that we examine a at least six foundational decisions handed down during the tenure of the following presiding Chief Justices:

  • The Taney Court (1836-1864) presided over the Dred Scott v. Sanford which upheld slavery in the U.S. Taney wrote that all Black people were not and could never become citizens of the U.S. Scholars have considered this decision the worst decision ever rendered by the Supreme Court.
  • The Fuller Court (1888-1910) presided over the Plessy v. Ferguson case which ruled that “separate but equal” was Constitutional. Segregation became legal throughout the U.S.
  • The Holmes Court (1902-1932 ) presided over the Buck v. Bell case which legalized “Eugenics.” This upheld the forced sterilization of those with intellectual disabilities.

*The Burger Court (1907-1995 ) presided over the Bowers v. Hardwick which upheld a discriminatory Georgia law that criminalized sexual relationships between gay men and lesbians. Though overturned in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, anti-sodomy laws remain on the books in certain states.

  • The Rehnquist Court (1986-2005 ) presided over the Bush v. Gore case, which halted the recount of contested ballots in Florida. Thereby, declared George W. Bush the 43rd President.
  • The Roberts Court ( 2003- Present) presided over a horrendous decision which held that political donations are speech; thus, protected by the First Amendment. He also gutted Section 5, of the Voters Rights Act; thus, paving the way for Republican’s passage of stringent voter suppression legislation. Under Robert’s tenure, the Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. Should the Court cave to Republican’s conservative principles, this would constitute the second most grievous assault on individual freedoms and liberties (“women rights”) since the Dred Scott decision!

Unfortunately, it must be noted that the Supreme Court remains America’s ultra- baston for maintaining white supremacy and suppressing the individual liberties and freedoms of people who don’t subscribe to the principles of the Republican Party and evangelical far right. Yes, Republicans with support from the Federalist Society, have maneuvered for years to pack the Supreme Court with unprincipled men and women who will do their bidding.

Yes, Congress can declare war for the purpose of murdering other humans and states can execute humans. Yet, women don’t have control of their productive rights.


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Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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